[ RAINBOW BASEBALL ]
Lean draft class
could yield surprise
Suzuki will probably go first
among players with Hawaii ties
Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, held every year since 1965, starts tomorrow and ends Tuesday after all 30 teams have either passed or made a selection in the 50th and final round.
The best bet for the first pick with Hawaii connections is catcher Kurt Suzuki, a junior from Baldwin who has earned multiple honors at Cal State Fullerton this year. He was hitting a team-leading .429 with 13 home runs and 74 runs batted following the Titans' opening-round victory over Minnesota on Friday in the NCAA tournament.
He is expected to go in the first five rounds, as is Greg Burns Jr., a University of Hawaii recruit from Walnut High School in Philips Ranch, Calif. Burns has excellent speed and hit .462 this year.
Picks of the litter
The first pick from Hawaii, last five years.
1999: Jerome Williams, RHP, Waipahu, supplemental pick between first and second rounds (39 overall), San Francisco, signed.
2000: Justin Wayne, RHP, Stanford (Punahou), first round (5 overall), Montreal, signed.
2001: Bronson Sardinha, SS, Kamehameha, supplemental pick between first and second (34 overall), N.Y. Yankees, signed.
2002: Shane Komine, RHP, Nebraska (Kalani), ninth round (278 overall), Oakland, signed.
2003: Kainoa Obrey, 3B, Brigham Young (Iolani), 13th round (318 overall), St. Louis, signed.
The consensus among local scouts is that 2004 is a lean year for Hawaii talent; yet don't be shocked if there is a surprise pick.
UH coach Mike Trapasso says senior shortstop Brian Finegan and senior right-hander Clary Carlsen should be picked.
While first baseman Andrew Sansaver is a great fielder, he does not fit the stereotype of a power-hitting first baseman. But he would be a minor-league manager's dream for his work ethic and leadership ability.
Trapasso expects juniors Ricky Bauer, a right-handed pitcher, and outfielder Greg Kish will be picked but will not be high-round choices.
Mark Rodrigues, who was drafted in 2001 (Montreal) and 2002 (Oakland), could be selected if a team wants to take a long shot. The left-hander did not pitch for UH this year and needs Tommy John surgery.
Another possibility is catcher Creighton Kahaoli'i, who missed the final 11 Rainbow games with a knee injury.
Kea Kometani, a Punahou graduate, attracted scouts' attention when he switched from the bullpen to a starting role for Pepperdine this year.
Kometani, who throws a fastball in the 87-91 mph range, a slider and a splitter, is 8-6 with a 4.05 ERA. He walked 40 and struck out 85 in 120 innings.
Hawaii Pacific coach Allan Sato said first baseman Alika Kuraoka attracted attention from scouts during the Sea Warriors' road trip this year.
"There is interest, but it is a long shot," Sato said.
Beside Burns, the UH coaches expect Steven Lopez, a catcher from Yavapai Junior College; Joe Spiers, a shortstop from Canyon Springs (Calif.) High School; right-hander James Parr from La Cuerva High School in Albuquerque, N.M.; right-hander Dean Turner from Bellevue (Wash.) College; and recent signees Justin Costi, a right-hander from Northeast Oklahoma A&M; and Andrew LeFave, a multi-position player from Edmonds (Wash.) College to be selected.
Local high school players who have signed with UH and are well-known to scouts include left-hander Myles Ioane and right-hander Ronnie Loeffler, both from Waiakea High School; Kanekoa Texeira, a right-hander from Kamehameha; and catcher Aaron Asher from Aiea.
Mid-Pacific shortstop Randy Rundgren has interest from at least four teams, but he may take the same route older brother Rex took and go to Sacramento City College for a year and become a draft-and-follow pick.
Waimea's left-handed hitting third baseman Leonard Zalopany and Kamehameha third baseman/shortstop A.J. Satele are possible picks.
Several Hawaii players competing for mainland junior college teams could receive a call.
John Kamaile Santos, a right-hander from Kailua at Los Medanos J.C., and Gered Mochizuki, a shortstop from Baldwin at Yavapai, were drafted last year by Seattle and Kansas City, respectively. Santos has signed a letter of intent to play for Oklahoma State next year.
Tyler McCready, a right-hander for Sierra College out of Iolani, and Keahi Kapana, a Saddleback Community College first baseman from Campbell, are possible selections.
In 2003, 11 players with Hawaii connections were drafted. Six signed pro contracts.
The basic categories of players eligible to be drafted are:
» High school players, if they have graduated and have not yet attended college or junior college;
The San Diego Padres own the No. 1 pick and they are expected to choose from these players: shortstop Stephen Drew from Florida State, right-hander Jered Weaver from Long Beach State and right-handers Philip Humber or Jeff Niemann from Rice.
» College players from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old;
» Junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed;
» And 21-year-old players.
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Knee injury brings end
to Chaves’ season in AA
Brandon Chaves finally made the jump to Class AA ball this spring after four years on lower-classification teams in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Unfortunately, his 2004 season ended May 25 following a violent collision on the base paths.
The former Hilo High School and Hawaii-Hilo standout is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his left knee.
He was placed on the disabled list May 28.
The shortstop for the Eastern League's Altoona (Pa.) Curve was trying to beat out a swinging bunt toward third in his first at-bat against the Reading (Pa.) Phillies.
The collision occurred when a throw from Reading pitcher Gavin Floyd was high and a little off target to 6-foot-3, 230-pound first baseman Ryan Howard, who outweighs the 6-3 Chaves by 55 pounds.
"He was right on top of the base. I had nowhere to go," Chaves said. "As I reached for the bag with my left leg, it was totally extended. As I touched the bag, he (Howard) hit me the wrong way and knocked me backward. I knew something was wrong right away. It was pretty bad."
Jason Dambach, Altoona director of media relations, said, "Brandon looked like a wide receiver getting hit going over the middle. I thought he was knocked out or maybe had a broken collarbone until they started working on him.
"The thing is, the Pirates had him in camp during spring training and everyone I've talked to says the Pirates really like Brandon.
He wasn't hitting for a high average, but he is a smooth-fielding shortstop. And, Brandon has a frame that can take a few more pounds."
Chaves, who had played in 40 games and was batting .222, was sent to Pirate City, Pittsburgh's spring training facility in Bradenton, Fla., for further evaluation.
"I will be here for a couple of weeks, then they will figure out a surgery date and fly me to Pittsburgh for the surgery," Chaves said. "After that, I'll come back to Pirate City for rehabilitation.
"I've talked to a couple of doctors who say when girls have this surgery, the come back in three months. But, generally speaking, it is six months to a year before you are 100 percent. I'm hoping for the best and hoping to be able to play in a fall league."
Chaves was a 10th-round selection by the Pirates in the 2000 First-Year-Player Draft.