Ian Moller didn’t eat or sleep very well this weekend.
For years, the 18-year-old Dubuque native has embraced the grind and put in the work so he could control his own destiny on a baseball diamond. But, the past two days, Moller could only sit back, watch the Major League Baseball Draft and wonder what the future might have in store for him.
The wait ended just before 2 p.m. Monday, when the Texas Rangers selected Moller in the fourth round. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound right-handed hitting catcher, who graduated from Wahlert in January so he could prepare full-time for the draft, went 103rd overall and with the second selection in the fourth round.
“I’m super excited,” said Moller, who joined a Rangers draft class that includes No. 2 overall pick Jack Leiter, an all-American right-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt University. “I just wanted the opportunity to be a professional baseball player, and now I have a chance to do something really big. They have a plan for me, and I’m just super excited to get started.
“It’s exciting to be drafted by the same team as Jack Leiter. He’s competitive, I’m competitive, and it’s pretty cool to think that I could be catching him in the big leagues in a few years. It’s great for the Rangers organization to have young, competitive, talented kids coming up. Hopefully, we can do some great things for the organization and reward them for taking us.”
Cedar Rapids-based scouting service Perfect Game USA listed Moller as the country’s No. 14 overall prospect and the No. 2 catcher in the 2021 high school graduating class. He also earned the No. 1 overall and No. 1 catcher rankings in the state of Iowa.
In rankings that included draft-eligible collegiate players, MLB.com listed Moller as the 124th-best prospect for this year’s draft.
Moller signed with Louisiana State University in November but will bypass collegiate baseball and begin his professional career immediately. Moller’s draft slot carried a value of approximately $565,600, but the Rangers put themselves in a position to offer considerably more to entice the catcher to sign.
Moller said he will sign at “a lot over slot” and will travel to Arlington, Texas, this weekend to make it official. That will bring about a different kind of emotion than the ones he felt while watching the first round Sunday night and the second and third rounds Monday afternoon at his grandmother’s home in Dubuque. He experienced the draft with approximately 30 members of his extended family.
“It was very, very tough to see him go through this the last couple of days,” his father, Steven, said. “I know it’s supposed to be a happy and glorious thing, but I’m not going to lie: I wouldn’t wish these last couple of days on anyone. The end result is great, but to watch him squirm and just not be himself was really tough. But I guess you have to go through the valleys to get to the peaks of the mountain.”
Ian Moller figured he wouldn’t be selected in the first round Sunday night, so the anxiety began to ramp up Monday morning. And it intensified when the draft began shortly at noon. Fortunately, teams had only one minute between picks.
“There’s definitely some frustration, especially when you feel like you’re better than some of the guys being taken ahead of you,” Moller said. “I just wanted the opportunity to prove myself. Patience was the key, but I didn’t want to talk to anybody, I couldn’t eat or sleep the last couple of days, and I just kind of wanted to be left alone.
“You have no idea what it’s like. But it’s all good now. I’m excited to be a Texas Ranger.”
Moller has had a good feeling about the Rangers for about a month and a half. He worked out for the team at Globe Life Field in Arlington, met with the scouting staff and roughly 50 of the team’s decision makers and watched a game from the suite level.
“I felt like I tore it up during the workout, and both sides just felt really comfortable with each other, so they were pretty much the team favorite for me since then,” Moller said. “They were on me the hardest, so I figured that’s where I was going to go.
“But, with the draft, there’s no certainty. I was getting a lot of calls from other teams, but the Rangers were that team that stood out to me.”
The Rangers made the all-important call roughly an hour before calling his name on draft day. Moller said the team intended on drafting him in the fourth round but first wanted to make sure he would accept the contract they planned to offer. The deal became a little sweeter when Texas brass indicated they hope to have Moller on an accelerated path to the big leagues.
“It was relieving to know I was going to the Rangers, but, man, that was still a long, long hour of waiting,” Moller said. “When my name finally came up on the board, the emotions all came out. But I’ve been good ever since.”
Moller will travel to Texas on Friday, sign his contract, work out and meet with the local media. From there, he will be off to the Rangers’ spring training site in Surprise, Ariz., for the remainder of the summer and into the fall.
Moller became the first Dubuque County player to be drafted since the San Diego Padres selected Cascade right-handed pitcher Colin Rea in the 12th round of the 2011 draft following his junior season at Indiana State University. Rea reached the big leagues with the Padres in 2015, pitched for the Chicago Cubs last season and recently began his first season with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball.
Dyersville, Iowa, native Nic Ungs also went in the 12th round of the 2001 draft to the Florida Marlins and advanced to the Triple-A level during an 11-year professional career. Prior to Monday, no other Dubuque County player heard his name called before the 12th round.
The last Dubuque player drafted was Wahlert left-handed pitcher Nick Kirk, who went to the Cleveland Indians in the 19th round in 2009. Josh Habel, a left-handed pitcher from Hempstead landed with the San Francisco Giants in the 14th round of the 2002 draft. Eight years earlier, three Wahlert products went in the same draft, including outfielder Scott Savary in the 21st round to the Cincinnati Reds, second baseman Bobby Meyer to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 35th round and right-handed pitcher Tom Sullivan to the Chicago White Sox in the 46th round.
Kevin Rhomberg, an all-state shortstop who led Hempstead to the 1974 state championship, held the distinction of being the highest-drafted Dubuque player until Monday. The Cleveland Indians selected him in the 14th round of the 1977 draft.
The New York Yankees drafted Bill Burbach, a Dickeyville, Wis., native who played baseball at Wahlert, in the first round, 19th overall in the 1965 MLB Draft. He spent four years in the minors before making the big leagues, where he went 6-11 with a 4.48 ERA in 37 appearances. He later pitched in the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins organizations.