CEDAR RAPIDS — He’ll almost surely hear (or see) his name at some point this week. But don’t tell Cole McDonald that.
The University of Iowa pitcher will believe it when he sees it.
The 2019 Major League Baseball Draft is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and McDonald is one of a handful of Hawkeyes who could receive an opportunity to play professionally. The senior from New Hampton is a safe bet to get picked, though he kind of thought the same thing last season, too, and it never happened.
“So, I guess, right now, I’m definitely excited and kind of prepared for it,” McDonald said. “But at the same time, you don’t want to get too amped up and get disappointed. Stay calm a little bit, and, obviously, hope for the best.”
McDonald is a great story in that he hurt his arm as a junior in high school, had Tommy John elbow surgery and didn’t pitch at all as a senior. The right-hander pitched just three times as a junior.
But Iowa believed in him, and he improved each and every season for Coach Rick Heller. He emerged as a Friday starter in Big Ten Conference games this season and went 6-3 with a 3.54 earned run average.
His final college start was the best of his career: eight innings, five hits and a run allowed, with nine strikeouts against Indiana.
“I kind of came in, didn’t pitch my junior or senior year of high school, I’m from a small town,” McDonald said. “Going to the University of Iowa was kind of like a whole new world just opened in front of my eyes. I didn’t know what to expect. I’m sure you could ask any junior or senior, they looked at me and said ‘How could Coach Heller recruit this guy?’ ... But once I showed up, I just tried to work as hard as I possibly could.”
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McDonald said he gained 20 pounds between last season and this season and it helped him gain more durability and velocity. His fastball jumped from the 86 to 88-mile-per-hour range to 88-to-92.
That will get you a shot at pro ball.
“Hearing a lot of things from scouts, more than last year, so I’m pretty confident that my name will be called,” McDonald said. “It’s definitely a better feeling compared to last year.”
Other Iowa players with a chance at getting drafted include pitchers Grant Leonard, Grant Judkins and Kyle Shimp, catcher Austin Martin and outfielder Ben Norman.
Among local and area preps, Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Harrison Cook seems to have the best chance to get picked.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander apparently has improved his fastball velocity and has a high upside. He has signed with the University of Kentucky and said two weeks ago that school is his likely destination.
But he also pointed out that could change, depending on where he would be drafted and how much of a signing bonus he would get offered. Former Prairie prep Levi Usher, who recently completed his freshman season at Kirkwood Community College, also could get drafted as an outfielder.
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