2013 Perfect Game High School Baseball Preview Index
On Nov. 21, University of Hawaii head coach Mike Trapasso announced the names of the eight players that had signed national letters-of-intent and would comprise the Rainbow’s 2014 recruiting class.
“We’re very pleased with this class,” Trapasso said that day. “Anytime you can sign (so many highly ranked players) in the nation, it’s exciting. But what really impresses me is they’re all tremendous young men (and) I’d like to thank my staff for their efforts.”
Making it more special, most of those prominent prospects are native Hawaiians.
Hawaii’s 2013 high school class is one of the strongest the state has produced in recent memory, at least in terms of highly ranked national prospects. Perfect Game ranks three 2013 Hawaiian prospects in the top 170 nationally: No. 84 Marcus Doi (Mid-Pacific Institute HS, Honolulu), No. 111 Kean Wong (Waiakea HS, Hilo) and No. 170 Iolana Akau (Saint Louis HS, Wiapahu).
Trapasso was able to sign all three of those guys – the top-three in PG’s Hawaii state rankings – along with Hawaii No. 6 Chayce Kaaua (Hilo HS, Hilo). No. 4 state-ranked (No. 407 nationally) Mark Karaviotis (Maui HS, Kihei) signed with Oregon and No. 5 (top-500 nationally) Teaotai Buehler signed with Arizona Western College.
There seems to be intriguing prospects just about everywhere, but especially in Honolulu and on the island of Oahu, the most populous of Hawaii’s eight main islands.
“I think kids are starting to play year around more, more so than before,” said Waiakea High School head coach Kevin Yee, who led the school from Hilo and the Big Island to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) Division I state championship last year.
“Five or six years ago guys would just play Little League in the summer, but now guys are becoming a little bit more specialized in just baseball where they were playing multiple sports before.”
Middle-infielder Christian Donahue (Iolani School, Mililani) and Waiakea left-hander Kodi Medeiros rank among Hawaii’s top 2014 prospects. Donahue has committed to Oregon State and Medeiros to Hawaii.
Akau, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound primary catcher, attends Saint Louis School, an all-boys private Catholic school located in Honolulu that plays in the powerful Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH). Doi attends Mid-Pacific Institute, which is also in Honolulu and plays in the ILH.
Honolulu’s nationally recognized Punahou School is also a member of the eight-school ILH; Punahou won eight straight HHSAA state baseball championships from 2006 through 2010.
“Our (league) down here is really talented and the pitching is good; it’s difficult to hit up here,” Akau told Perfect Game over the phone earlier this week. “Everyone knows everyone and I think all these pitchers kind of know how to pitch to me. It’s going to be hard and it’s going be challenging this year for me, but I think I can overcome it and strive for perfection.”
Doi said he and his teammates at Mid-Pacific Institute are reminded often of the level of the competition they face.
“Our coaches always tell us that we have the most competitive league on the West Coast,” he said. “I don’t doubt that, because there’s been a lot of talent the last couple of years and a lot of my teammates are going to big-time D-I schools, and I see all these other Hawaii players either getting drafted or are already in the majors. The talent here, I would say, is almost as good as it is on the mainland.”
The only exposure Doi, Akau and Wong have had with mainland scouts was at last summer’s Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif. Perfect Game vice president of player personnel David Rawnsley and PG national scouting supervisor Todd Gold were both in attendance at the Area Codes and got a chance to see the prospects up close for the first time.
Doi is a 6-foot, 185-pound outfielder, and Rawnsley was particularly impressed with the way he swung the bat, claiming “he can flat-out hit the baseball.”
“He squared the ball up every time and the ball just exploded off the barrel,” Rawnsley said. “He had exit speeds up to 109 mph and was just hurting baseballs. … He has a very short swing for that kind of power; it will be interesting to see how scouts evaluate him this spring.”
After Doi signed his letter of intent with Hawaii, coach Trapasso said: “Marcus is a great young man with exceptional skills. He’s a tremendous talent, plus he has offensive skills and great versatility. He can truly play anywhere on the field.”
Doi said it was just a matter of him identifying his priorities:
“I had to focus more on baseball because I knew in my career I would go farther in baseball than any other sport,” he said. “I started playing basketball at about the same time I started playing baseball, but last year I realized I had to stop playing (basketball) to become a better baseball player.”
He is ranked as the No. 168 overall prospect in the 2013 MLB amateur draft.
“I have thought about (the draft) a lot, but right now I just want to focus on my senior year,” Doi said. “Towards the end of it, I’ll start focusing more on the draft and everything else.”
Akau most impressed Rawnsley with his throwing release from behind the plate, noting that he clocked a 1.89 Pop time during one game at the Area Codes. “Runners just stopped trying to steal on him in Long Beach after he threw out four or five of them,” Rawnsley said.
“Lana just may be the best catcher on the West Coast,” Hawaii’s Trapasso said on signing day. “He has tremendous catch-and-throw skills and what excites me, as well, is his leadership ability. He plays with great energy and makes those around him better.”
Akau is ranked the No. 270 overall draft prospect, but like Doi won’t allow himself to get too caught up in the surrounding hoopla until draft day gets much closer.
“I’m just taking one day at a time and I’m not trying to rush things; I don’t want to look too far ahead,” he said. “I’m trying to focus on my senior year and whatever works out, works out. I just have to hope for the best.”
Wong, a talented middle-infielder, has a story of his own. He is the brother of former Hawaii Rainbows All-American Kolten Wong, who was a first-round draft pick (No. 22 overall) of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 MLB amateur draft. The Wong’s father, Kaha, is a former minor-leaguer and now is a respected hitting instructor and coach on the Big Island.
“The difference between Kean and Kolten is that Kolten is a faster and more versatile athlete, although it’s worth noting that Kolten wasn’t considered a high-level prospect out of high school and went on to become a first-rounder,” Rawnsley said.
“The similarities to his brother are hard to ignore,” Trapasso said. “Kean has the same powerful, compact swing; he’s a plus runner and has the ability to play multiple positions, and will be a great college player.”
Kean Wong was named the Hawaii state player of the year in 2012 after helping Waiakea to the state championship with a 20-0 record. It was the first state championship for a school from the Big Island Interscholastic Federation (BIIF) since Hilo High School won the one-division state championship in 1985.
Punahou had dominated at the state level for years before Pearl City from the Oahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) won the Division I title in 2011. Waipahu from the OIA won the Division II championship last year.
“It was really huge,” said Yee, who was in his first season as Waiakea’s head coach in 2012. “We had 13 seniors … and it was one of those things where everyone just came together and really played as a team really well. We had all the different pieces that kind of fit together and we got some breaks, and everything kind of fell into place.”
The hero of the championship game – a 5-2 win over Baldwin High School (Wailuku) – was left-hander Quintin Torres-Costa. He threw a six-inning no-hitter with 13 strikeouts before he had to leave when he reached the tournament pitch limit. Torres-Costa begins his freshman season at the University of Hawaii this week.
The 2013 high school season began last week for HHSAA member schools and there seems to be a growing sense that the game is enjoying an upswing in notoriety. But PG’s Rawnsley wisely noted the very best Hawaiian prospects would be better served by getting over to the mainland more frequently than just a one week stop at the Area Code Games.
“The top Hawaiian kids have definitely been hurt in terms of exposure compared to even a player from Nebraska or New Hampshire,” Rawnsley said.
Karaviotis, one the top guys in Hawaii’s 2013 class, was at both the 2010 and 2012 PG Sunshine West Showcase in Chula Vista, Calif., and ultimately secured a scholarship from Oregon. Kolten Wong attended the 2007 PG National Showcase in Cincinnati and played in the 2007 PG WWBA 18u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., on the mainland. Kolten Wong continues to have a big influence on Hawaii’s newest crop of top prospects, especially those who live in the Hilo area.
“With (Kolten) getting drafted in the first round definitely opened up a lot of doors for a lot of kids here on the Big Island,” Yee said. “We’re getting a lot more phone calls and a lot more emails from scouts and coaches looking for players over here now, where five or six years ago that wasn’t as much the case as it is now.”
The players know what’s going on. Akau feels like he sees a growing interest in baseball among his athletic peers.
“Baseball has its moments and it depends on what school you go to,” he said. “The class of 2014 is a pretty decent class, too, and there’s a lot of talent over here in Hawaii.”