CEDAR RAPIDS — Zach Daniels is amazing.
Not just that he was one of the Big Ten Conference’s best relievers this season. The numbers speak for themselves there.
But more that such a slight and slender frame can generate such nasty pitches. His slider is dirty, his fastball regularly in the low-90s to mid-90s.
The Iowa junior and former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep is listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds. The 160 might be cooking the books a bit.
It doesn’t make sense. How does Daniels do it?
“I wish I could give you a clear-cut answer for that,” he said, in typical low-key fashion. “For me, I would say I have a quick arm. Just knowing how to use your body (is important). One thing I try to work on is getting to the plate as fast as I can.”
Daniels hopes to see his name on the computer screen sometime in the next three days, as Major League Baseball conducts its annual draft. The first two rounds are Monday night, with the Detroit Tigers holding the first pick.
They have been linked to Auburn University pitcher Casey Mize. Rounds three through 10 are Tuesday, with the remainder of the draft (11th through 40th rounds) Wednesday.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” Daniels said. “I’d say I’m a little nervous, a little excited. A lot of teams have contacted me. Some teams have shown more interest than others. But it has been a long process, starting in the fall. I’ve heard late second day, early third day. But with the draft, you never really know what’s going to happen. It has been a long process, for sure, but, hopefully, it will all work out in the end.”
Daniels went to Iowa as a two-way player but decided to concentrate on pitching after his freshman season. He went 7-3 with a 3.22 earned run average as a sophomore, striking out 55 in 50 1/3 innings.
This season, he was 6-2 with five saves and a 2.56 ERA. He struck out 49 in 45 2/3 innings.
That’s usually good enough for some team to draft him. That he is amenable to signing, if the terms are right, also should help.
“Definitely depends on the circumstances,” he said. “I would say it depends on the organization, too. I am definitely open to signing if the circumstances are right. But I have a good option in coming back to school for another year, too.
“It’s my last year to have some leverage.”
Some of Daniels’ Hawkeye teammates surely will be drafted as well. Outfielder Robert Neustrom, catcher Tyler Cropley and pitchers Nick Allgeyer and Brady Schanuel are on Baseball America’s list of top 500 draft-eligible players.
That would place them all in the first 15 to 20 rounds. Perfect Game also has Cedar Rapids Prairie outfielder Levi Usher in its top 500.
Kirkwood Community College shortstop Korry Howell is a top-500 guy by both BA and PG. Cedar Rapids Jefferson pitcher Connor Van Scoyoc (an Arizona State signee) also is a likely draft pick.
The most highly considered Iowan/Iowa collegian is North Iowa Area Community College pitcher Brandon Williamson, who is projected to go in the top 10 rounds.
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