They are two of Iowa’s “Boys of Summer.” But no one’s sure for exactly how long.
Maybe it’ll be three weeks, perhaps a month. Maybe it’ll be all season.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Kellen Sweeney and Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Jon Keller will play for their respective schools tonight in the first round of the season-opening Bob Vrbicek Metro Tournament. That much we know.
But both are expected to be selected in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft, which is June 7-9. There is a possibility one or both could be picked rather high, which could mean bye-bye high-school baseball and hello pros.
“I’ve been contacted by all 30 teams, and they’re interested,” said Keller, a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher with a fastball that consistently sits in the low-90s. “I don’t know. They’re starting to talk about signability with me now.”
Keller was asked what his signability is. He has committed to the University of Nebraska and has that to fall back on if the round he is drafted in or the signing bonus he is offered isn’t to his liking.
“We haven’t really sat down (as a family) and discussed an absolute number,” Keller said. “But I’m looking at the top five rounds or so.”
According to the scouting community, being selected in the top five rounds is likely for Sweeney. The brother of Oakland Athletics outfielder Ryan Sweeney was ranked 59th overall in a recent draft list produced by Perfect Game USA baseball club and scouting service of Cedar Rapids.
That’s the second round.
The shortstop and University of San Diego commitment has proven to everyone in draft showcases and spring leagues that he is fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery he had on his right elbow last fall. He is being flown to Los Angeles to work out privately for the Angels later this week and to Houston for a workout with the Astros.
Clubs don’t do that unless they are serious about you.
“It’s pretty cool,” Sweeney said. “It seems like it’s changed quite a bit from when my brother was drafted (in the second round by the White Sox in 2003). There are a lot more (private workouts) now … I haven’t really talked to my mom and dad about it much, yet. We’ll find out what happens on draft day.”
No Iowa prep has ever been taken in the first round. Some of that is a product of being the only state that plays high school baseball in the summer instead of spring.
Iowa’s season is just getting going when MLB conducts its draft. It’s a tough deal for the potential draftees and their high school teams.
“First and foremost, this won’t be a shock to our team to lose a high-end player like Kellen, as it was last season when we lost him for two weeks after he popped a hamstring,” said Jefferson Coach Mike Kuba. “This year, with this scenario, you know what’s going on. We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible with our team. I have not addressed it at all with Kellen or with our team.”
“I’m sure the guys would be happy for me if I go away,” Sweeney said. “But you know, whatever happens is going to happen.”
That could mean Metro opponents have to deal with Sweeney and Keller all summer. Or maybe they won’t.
“It has been a fun ride,” Keller said.
“We’re taking it as it is,” Kuba said. “And taking Kellen for as long as we get him.”