Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, June 1, 1999

Isle prepsters await
the call of big leagues

IN a year when prep players are expected to dominate baseball's amateur draft, Waipahu High pitcher Jerome Williams could become the highest selected local high school player ever.

Don't be surprised to see the first three or four Hawaii players picked tomorrow all come from the prep ranks.

Williams, the 6-foot-3, 187-pound right-hander, could actually go in the "sandwich picks" -- the picks (21 of them this year) between the first and second rounds.

Those picks -- the 31st through 51st -- serve as additional compensation to clubs that lost top players to free agency.

Clubs benefitting from the "sandwich round" include Kansas City (which lost Jose Offerman to Boston) and Boston (which lost Mo Vaughn to Anaheim).

Williams shouldn't go any lower than the second round.

In his favor is the fact that he has pitched consistently well under intense scrutiny.

THE most scouted player in the islands this year, he has had to pitch before mobs of speed-gunning cross-checkers, who occasionally outnumbered fans. Once he struck out 11 while suffering from a 102-degree fever.

He makes no pretensions about his talent, and I think clubs see that as a sign of coachability.

Williams hasn't displayed the speed of a prospect like Spring High (Texas) pitcher Josh Beckett (clocked up to 99 mph), who could be the top pick in the draft. Nor has he got Beckett's gaudy stats (153 K's in 79 innings).

But that's OK.

He's young for a high school senior (he won't turn 18 until late this year), and possesses a very live, loose arm, which has tantalized scouts with its potential. He's been clocked up to 93 mph.

He's definitely signable. Williams isn't planning on college.

Another attractive feature to major league clubs is that he is not being advised by an agent who might complicate the signing process.

Kamehameha catcher Dane Sardinha (now at Pepperdine) was selected in the second round (59th overall) of the 1997 draft by the Kansas City Royals after being widely projected as a first-rounder. Some scouts said they were discouraged by the fact that Sardinha was being advised by hard-bargaining agent Scott Boras.

Sardinha is, to date, the highest drafted Hawaii prep player. There have been 50 Hawaii players drafted out of the 12th grade.

LOOK for four-sport St. Anthony (Maui) athlete Shane Victorino (signed by Hawaii) to be the next local player taken. He's created a late stir among scouts and may go in the fourth or fifth round.

Next up should be St. Louis shortstop Jandin Thornton-Murray. Thornton-Murray, who also played strong safety for the Crusaders' football team, will go later in the first 10 rounds.

Baseball America online says Kamehameha infielder/outfielder Paki Lum, who has signed with USC, is one of Hawaii's most draftable prep prospects. But insiders say now that Lum is destined to stick with his scholarship and come back in the 2002 draft. The interest in him may be higher then.

Look for a couple of other local prep players to be drafted, but not until the much later rounds.

Mid-Pacific shortstop Rex Rundgren and St. Louis' slugging outfielder Chad Santos will be "draft-and-follow" picks. That is, clubs will draft them and retain rights to them while they attend junior colleges. The clubs have until a week before the 2000 draft to sign them.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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