Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, June 2, 2002


Draft prospects are down

By Al Chase

This is forecast as a down year for Hawaii's high school and college baseball players when Major League Baseball conducts its First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It is doubtful the number of players from Hawaii or with a Hawaii connection will equal those selected in recent years. A first-round pick from Hawaii would be a surprise.

Major-league teams drafted 15 players with isle ties last year, 14 in 2000 and 13 in 1999. These drafts were highlighted by Bronson Sardinha being the 34th overall pick a year ago, Justin Wayne being selected fifth overall in 2000 and Jerome Williams being taken 39th overall in 1999.

Hawaii Rainbow coach Mike Trapasso thinks junior right-handed pitchers Chris George and Bryan Lee will attract some interest, but doesn't expect either player to go very high if selected.

George was 6-6 in 17 appearances (14 starts) with a 5.91 earned run average. He fanned 94 in 9113 innings while walking 38.

Lee, who began the season as UH's No. 1 starter, lost his change-up and finished the season as the closer, but he rarely got to pitch in that capacity. He was 2-3 with a 6.05 ERA in 61 innings.

Trapasso also said some of the recruits who signed with UH last November have pro scouts' attention. The recruits include right-hander Keahi Rawlins from Molokai High School, junior college pitchers Justin Azze and Nick Ponomarenko, Drew Jackson, a high school catcher from Colorado, and Tyler Wightman, an infielder from Poway (Calif.) High School.

Shane Komine, a right-handed pitcher for Nebraska, and Duke Sardinha, a junior infielderright fielder for Pepperdine, were drafted a year ago, elected to return to school, and should be picked again this year. It's also possible some Hawaii players at junior colleges will be selected.

After yesterday's first-round win over Marist in the NCAA Tournament, Komine is 8-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 11 games. He has pitched 7913 innings, struck out 99, walked 22, allowed 49 hits and held opponents to a .175 batting average.

Comments on Major League Baseball's Web site include: "small, compact, Tom Gordon-type body. Throws strikes and exhibits solid mound presence. Five pitches. Fastball runs with occasional sink. Quality, down biting 12-to-6 curve. Keeps splitter down in the zone. Poised with great feel for pitching."

Sardinha, drafted in the 41st round last June by the Colorado Rockies, finished the season in right field for the 31-32 Waves after playing in the infield his first two seasons for Pepperdine.

He hit .315 (80-for-254) in 60 games with 20 doubles, a triple, 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in.

Hawaii Pacific center fielder T.C. Everett, who hit .317 for the Sea Warriors, is a possible draft pick.

Azze, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound left-hander had what Trapasso called "an OK" season for Orange Coast College.

The comments on the MLB Web site were: "Built like a small Chuck Finley, lean and wiry with room to carry more weight. Hides ball well out of effortless, three-quarter delivery. Consistent 87-88 fastball tails and sinks. Throws strikes, works fast."

Ponomarenko, a 6-foot, 190-pound right-hander, was 5-3 with a 6.49 ERA for Cuesta College. He fanned 68 and walked 45 in 79 innings in his first season as a pitcher.

He also played first base and hit .348.

MLB's comments were: "Medium, athletic frame. Lean and solid, similar to Billy Wagner. Quick, fluid arm through three-quarter slot. Good deception to straight change, which drops at plate. Tight curve with late bite. Cut action to slider. Mild tail with little sink to fastball. Gaining more feel with innings and experience."

Another player who is likely to be drafted is 6-2 Stanford right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, whose mother is from Kailua. He has relatives living in Hawaii but grew up in Oregon. He turned down an offer by Pittsburgh last year and is expected to be a high draft choice Tuesday.

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