In the weeks leading
up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview
of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as
well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the
state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as
well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.
Hawaii State-by-State List
Native Hawaiian Wong
Ready to Make Draft History in Nation’s 50th State
Hawaii has had two
distinct golden eras over the life of the baseball draft.
The first was essentially
the 10-year period from 1978-87, when the University of Hawaii was in
the national spotlight on almost an annual basis and made its only
College World Series appearance in 1980.
lefthander Derek Tatsuno was a product of that period, and still
holds the NCAA single-season strikeout record of 234, set in 1979
(the record may come into clearer focus in the next several weeks as
UCLA righthander Trevor Bauer has 175 strikeouts to date, and
counting). Tatsuno was a second-round pick in 1979, the highest draft
pick in UH history to that point, and righthander Mike Campbell
eventually upstaged him when he was taken with the seventh overall
pick in 1985, effectively becoming the highest-draft pick ever to
come from Hawaii.
In that decade-long
stretch, the Rainbows produced 18 players, led by Tatsuno and
Campbell, that were drafted in the top 10 rounds.
The other era of
significance came in the five-year window from 1997-01, when Hawaii’s
high-school ranks produced the four highest draft picks in state
history—supplemental first-rounders Jerome Williams (1999) and
Bronson Sardinha (2001), and second-rounders Brandon League (2001)
and Dane Sardinha (1997).
outfielder Shane Victorino, a sixth-round pick in 1999 and the most
successful Hawaiian big-leaguer of recent vintage, also came from
that era. As did righthander Justin Wayne, a Hawaii prep product
(ninth round, 1997) who became the highest-drafted Hawaiian native
ever when he was taken with the fifth overall pick out of Stanford
University in 2000.
That checkered draft
history brings us to 2011, and what could be a historic draft for the
nation’s 50th state. University of Hawaii second baseman
Kolten Wong is projected to be selected in the latter half of the
first round this year, which would make him the first Hawaiian ever
to attend a college on the islands and emerge as a first-round draft
Only twice before has the
state’s primary university produced a first-rounder—Campbell, a
Washington high-school product, in 1985; and righthander Mark
Johnson, a Californian, in 1996—and Wong’s selection in the first
round would be big news on a lot of different fronts in Hawaii.
Tatsuno is still
considered the greatest home-state product to ever play at Hawaii.
Yet while he was drafted four times over the years, both before and
after his three-year career with the Rainbows, Tatsuno was never
selected higher than the second round in 1979. That opens the door
for pound, there may not be a better prospect in the entire 2011
draft class than the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Wong. He has well-rounded
skills, but his approach and productivity at the plate is what sets
leads the Rainbows this season in every meaningful offensive
category, including batting (.375), homers (6), RBIs (49), walks (39)
and stolen bases (22). He has polished offensive skills with a sound
approach from the left side of the plate, and surprising pop for a
player his size. He is also an accomplished base stealer.
Wong has found a home at second base after being an extremely
versatile player earlier in his career. He spent most of his freshman
season at Hawaii in center field, and was tried as a catcher
initially as a sophomore.
Wong’s success as a
home-state product was somewhat in the cards from the start as he was
a 16th-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2008 coming
out of Honolulu’s Kamehameha High. In fact, this act could be
repeated in the coming years as Wong’s younger brother Kean, a
sophomore at Hilo’s Waiakea High, is the top-ranked prospect in
Hawaii’s 2013 draft class. He is not only on the same career path
at Kolten, but he, too, has committed to stay close to home and play
The two-pronged measuring
stick for a college of on-field success and meaningful role in the
draft hasn’t always been pointed in a positive direction in recent
years at the University of Hawaii. Not only has it been 31 years
since the school last played in the College World Series, but until
last year, the Rainbows had been on the outside looking in when NCAA
regional bids were extended in 15 of the previous 16 years.
But Hawaii secured a
regional bid in 2010 when it unexpectedly won the Western Athletic
Conference post-season tournament, and with Wong leading the charge
again, another regional berth should be there for the taking this
year. The Rainbows finished the 2011 season with a fine 17-7 mark in
WAC play while playing a rugged schedule overall.
Moreoever, Wong won’t
be Hawaii’s only impact talent in this year’s draft. Six-foot-3
California-reared closer Lenny Linsky, whose fastball has been
routinely up to 96 mph this spring, also has been targeted in the top
ranks, meanwhile, may be hard-pressed to produce a single pick in the
top 8-10 rounds. Iolani High lefthander Carlos Rodriguez is the
state’ top-ranked prep prospect, but he is not far enough along the
development path with a fastball in the high-80s.
future well-being of the UH program, at least—the state’s top
three prep prospects, Rodriguez (Oregon State), OF/RHP Kalei
Contrades (San Jose State) and RHP Robert Kahana (Kansas)—are all
headed for colleges on the U.S. mainland a year from now, if, as
expected, they bypass the 2011 draft.
That situation also
occurred a year ago, when David “Kaiana” Eldredge V, whose father
David IV was a former star at Hawaii’s Punahou High and is
currently the baseball coach at Southern Utah, committed to play at
Kansas. Eldredge had been a two-time all-state selection at a high
school in Cedar City, Utah, but returned to his native Hawaii to play
his senior year of baseball at Punahou. That kept intact a
long-standing tradition on the part of the Eldredge family of playing
at Punahou High—even if he was unsuccessful in prolonging the
school’s streak of six consecutive state high-school titles.
Hawaii in a Nutshell:
All-consuming presence of Kolten Wong.
(1-to-5 scale): 3.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM:
Pearl City HS.
PROSPECT, Hawaii connection: Paul Sneider, 1b/rhp, Northwestern
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:
Pi’ikea Kitamura, ss, University of Hawaii.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
Kean Wong, of, Waiamea HS, Hilo.
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Mike Campbell, rhp, U. of Hawaii (1985, Mariners/1st round, 7th
2006 Draft: Steven
Wright, rhp, U. of Hawaii (Indians/2nd round).
2007 Draft: Tyler
Davis, rhp, U. of Hawaii (Padres/21st round).
2008 Draft: Dustin
Antolin, rhp, Mililani HS (Blue Jays/11th round).
2009 Draft: Vinnie
Catricala, 3b, U. of Hawaii (Mariners/10th round).
2010 DRAFT: Josh
Slaats, rhp, U. of Hawaii (Rockies/5th round).
Kolten Wong, 2b, University of Hawaii.
Best Power: Kolten
Wong, 2b, University of Hawaii.
Best Speed: Kolten
Wong, 2b, University of Hawaii.
Kolten Wong, 2b, University of Hawaii.
Best Velocity: Lenny
Linsky, rhp, University of Hawaii.
Best Breaking Stuff:
Lenny Linsky, rhp, University of Hawaii.
TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS
ONE and TWO
ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft /
KOLTEN WONG, 2b, University of Hawaii (Jr.)
elite college 2B; quality, well-rounded skills; does it all at
plate/on bases/in field, even in 5-9 frame.
LENNY LINSKY, rhp, University of Hawaii (Jr.)
as UH closer (1-1, 1.39, 12 SV, 32 IP/7 BB/31 SO) with FB up to 96,
84-86 SL; profiles as closer.
TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft /
CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, lhp, Iolani HS, Kapolei
confident LHP with athletic 6-2/195 frame; FB steady 86-89 mph, 81
SL; committed to Oregon State.