baseball Edit

Biggest roster needs for Iowa baseball

What are the needs that Rick Heller has to address?
What are the needs that Rick Heller has to address?

The era of the transfer portal allows coaches in all sports to evaluate their rosters at the end of the season and then go to the portal to patch up the open spots. Last season, Coach Rick Heller and his coaching staff brought in 12 transfers, ranging from JUCO to mid-majors to the Big Ten and SEC.

This offseason, the Hawkeyes have already added a pair of transfers in OF Chase Moseley from Kirkwood and SS Raider Tello from Pasadena City College. However, it is very likely that Coach Heller is still scouring the portal to fill some potential holes in the roster.

We will take a look at the Hawkeyes biggest needs and whether or not the portal could be the answer to fill the need.

1. An experienced power bat, preferably at 1B or DH

Keaton Anthony and Peyton Williams combined to hit 27 of Iowa’s 50 (54%) home runs, as well as 39 of the teams 103 (37.9%) doubles on the season. They were the major power source in the Hawkeye lineup and now there is a decent chance that neither of them will be on the 2023 version of the Iowa Baseball team. That means the Hawkeyes will need to find a player(s) to fill the hole left behind.

Both Williams and Anthony combined for more than 30 extra base hits last season, and both had above a .620 slugging percentage. Kyle Huckstorf was the next closest to either of them with 15 extra base hits and a .443 slugging percentage. No disrespect to the returning Hawkeyes, as there are a bunch of good hitters on the team, but it does not look like there is a player on the roster that can step in and put up those power numbers.

Incoming freshman Blake Guerin is a candidate to be the next Keaton Anthony for the Hawkeyes. While Keaton was injured during his true freshman year, he burst onto the scene this past year as a redshirt freshman and Guerin hopes to have a similar affect for Iowa next season. As a senior at Mounds View High School in the Minneapolis suburbs, Guerin hit nine home runs and amassed 37 RBIs in just 24 games. Both were MVHS school records. He has shown off series power both in high school and on the travel baseball circuit, including this impressive performance at Tropicana Field during a Perfect Game showcase back last July.

The other way to fill the hole, is to go to the transfer portal and try to bring in some proven pieces to do the job. The Hawkeyes already went and got OF Chase Moseley from Kirkwood, after he put up some impressive numbers for the Eagles this past season. The redshirt freshman batted .317 with 16 doubles, four triples and 11 home runs, while amassing 70 RBIs and a .659 slugging percentage. The Big Ten is an obvious step up in competition, but the power potential is there in the bat of Moseley.

There was also talk of a potential transfer from the American Athletic Conference filling the hole, however that seems to have fallen through after the new coach at the school put together a convincing pitch to keep him on campus. With that said, there are hundreds of players in the transfer portal and even though the coaching staff couldn’t reel in that particular player, it means they are actively looking.

2. A weekend rotation arm

Next season will be the second straight year where the Hawkeyes will go through major changes in the starting rotation. This past season, Iowa started four brand new arms in the weekend rotation and just one of them is set to return next season. Adam Mazur looks to be destined for an early pick in the MLB Draft, while Connor Schultz and Dylan Nedved have used up their college eligibility. Compounding even more, is the fact that Duncan Davitt and Cam Baumann will also not be returning.

Ty Langenberg figures to climb the ladder and move into the Friday or Saturday role after having a really solid year on the mound as the Sunday starter. However, the other two spots in the rotation are up for grabs and the addition of a transfer could help the process along majorly.

Marcus Morgan and Brody Brecht are the easy answers to who will step into the rotation, but putting all of your eggs in one basket with them could potentially backfire if one or both are still not ready for the weekend role. They are certainly talented enough and there is a reason they were on the draft radar out of high school, but their freshman seasons showed that there is still work to do.

The Hawkeyes could look to add an arm or two to the rotation like they did this past season to ensure that they go into the season with some proven pitchers. An older pitcher from the portal would make more sense, as they would be used to bridge the gap until Marcus and Brody can be starters. I think it would be an awfully risky decision to not go get a couple of starting pitching options.

3. Experienced bullpen help

Nedved was a Swiss army knife on the pitching staff, as he did everything for the Hawkeyes, including closer, long relief and starter. Ben Beutel stepped up as a senior and posted a 1.47 ERA over 29 appearances, including 41 strikeouts to just six walks. The unfortunate news for Iowa is that neither is returning to the Hawkeye bullpen next season.

That means pitching coach Robin Lund will be looking for a couple of guys to step up and fill the shoes of Nedved and Beutel. Will Christophersen battled a couple of injury stints this past season, but struck out 25 and walked just six over 14.2 innings. If he can stay healthy, he could slide into one of the important bullpen roles next year. Jacob Henderson, Jared Simpson, Chas Wheatley, Ben DeTaeye and Luke Llewellyn all had their moments where they looked good, but they also all had their moments where they struggled.

You have to figure that all of them will show improvement over the offseason, but if the Hawkeyes can find a couple of proven bullpen arms to sure up some of the gaps, I think that would a good decision. You can never have too deep of a bullpen. Best case scenario, the coaching staff finds a D1 or JUCO pitcher than has shown he can put up zeros on the scoreboard.