State Report: Iowa

Hawkeye State features interesting grab bag of prospects






See also: Baseball America's Complete 2010 Draft Map


THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Iowa, with no spring high school season and no standout college program, always presents a challenge to scouts. The top 10 prospects list below starts with three high schoolers, four juco players and an independent leaguer—not to mention a basketball player from Northern Iowa, which no longer has a baseball team.

Iowa is a state where the college programs lag behind the high schools and junior colleges in terms of churning out prospects. Iowa State dropped baseball after the 2001 season, and Northern Iowa followed suit after last season, leaving Iowa as the state's lone NCAA Division I college program—and the Hawkeyes' winning record this spring was just their second in the last 14 years.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Kellen Sweeney, 3b, Jefferson HS, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (National Rank: 164)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

2. Jon Keller, rhp, Xavier HS, Cedar Rapids
3. Jonathan Musser, rhp, Dowling Catholic HS, West Des Moines
4. Wade Morrison, rhp, Sioux City/American Association
5. Lucas O'Rear, rhp, Northern Iowa
6. Scott Schebler, of, Des Moines Area CC
7. Patrick Lala, rhp, Kirkwood CC
8. Anthony Bemboom, c, Iowa Western CC
9. Kurtis Muller, of, Iowa
10. Brashad Johnson, ss, Des Moines Area CC

SCOUTING REPORTS

Kellen Sweeney, 3b

Jefferson HS, Cedar Rapids


Sweeney's older brother Ryan was a White Sox second-round pick in 2003 and now starts in right field for the Athletics. Ryan was the better athlete—he could have been drafted just as high as a pitcher—but Kellen is a better hitter at the same stage of their careers. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has a quick lefthanded bat, a fluid stroke and good pull power. He struggled on the showcase circuit last summer, but scouts don't hold that against him because he hurt his elbow pitching in the final game of his junior season and required Tommy John surgery in August. Though he's a slightly above-average runner, Sweeney doesn't cover enough ground to stick at shortstop in pro ball. Assuming he regains his previous arm strength, he could make a good third baseman, and it's possible he could handle second base. Sweeney will go a few rounds later than his brother did, but that should be high enough to divert him from attending San Diego.

O'Rear Looks To Continue Baseball Career

Northern Iowa may have dropped baseball after the 2009 season, but the program lives on with Lucas O'Rear. He's better known as the two-time Missouri Valley Conference sixth man of the year and one of the players who helped key the Panthers' upset of top-seeded Kansas in the NCAA basketball tournament, but he attended a Perfect Game predraft showcase in mid-May. He hopes to get drafted this June, play his senior season of basketball and then become a full-time pitcher. Interestingly, he almost transferred to Kansas to continue playing both sports before deciding to remain with the Panthers. A 6-foot-6, 255-pound righthander, O'Rear threw an 89-93 mph fastball with little effort and flashed a low-80s slider in 17 innings for Northern Iowa in 2009. His velocity was down slightly at the showcase, understandable considering his layoff from baseball.

The state's best pitching prospects are a pair of 6-foot-5 high schoolers who have committed to Nebraska: Jon Keller and Jonathan Musser. Keller is more physically developed, carrying 225 pounds and dialing his low-90s fastball up to 93 mph. He has a quick arm that also generates a hard curveball, but his secondary pitches and command aren't consistent because he has trouble repeating his delivery at times.

Musser is leaner (205 pounds) and less physical than Keller, but he's more polished. He usually pitches in the high 80s and throws his curveball and changeup for strikes. His status is in question, as he wasn't ready for the start of Dowling Catholic's season in late May because he had a shoulder injury, the severity of which has yet to be determined.

Wade Morrison drew some attention by flashing a low-90s fastball at Morningside, an NAIA school. As soon as the Mustangs' season ended, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound righthander decided to increase his exposure by signing with the Sioux City Explorers of the independent American Association. He got knocked around in his first three outings with the Explorers, but his size and arm strength should get him drafted.