TEMPE, Ariz. » As one Hawaii baseball season comes to a close, the makeup of future Rainbow teams is about to take shape.
A lot of what fans will see from the 2011 squad depends on what happens over the next three days of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which kicks off today in Secaucus, N.J.
Whether it’s current players like Greg Garcia and Sam Spangler, or signed recruits like Mililani’s Keanu Carmichael and pitcher Luke Taylor of Woodinville (Wash.) High, UH’s next recruiting class could stay intact, or take a big hit.
"The funny thing is, the minute that last out is made, you start thinking about getting on the road recruiting and getting our program up to being a consistent regional team," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said after last night’s 8-4 loss to Arizona State in the Tempe regional final at Packard Stadium. "We’ve got four juniors we’ll have to wait and see about, but the likelihood is that all four guys will get drafted."
The one Rainbow junior most likely to leave is right-hander Josh Slaats, who is projected to be a third-round pick. Slaats is rated the No. 78 overall prospect by Baseball America and has a fastball in the low to mid 90s with a devastating slider.
Even though Slaats has struggled over the final two months of the season, scouts can’t ignore what he did to open the season.
The 6-foot-5 native of San Ramon, Calif., allowed four earned runs in his first six starts, and was named Western Athletic Conference pitcher of the week four times.
He threw a two-hit shutout against The Citadel, which qualified for the NCAA tournament, and allowed one hit in seven innings against Gonzaga.
The other big name that has garnered a lot of attention from scouts recently is Garcia, UH’s three-year starting shortstop. A handful of scouts watched the left-handed hitting Garcia take batting practice at Hohokam Park in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday.
Garcia came into yesterday’s games hitting .359 and was 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs in a 12-9 win over San Diego.
Catcher David Freitas and the left-handed Spangler, who was drafted in the 20th round last year by the Pittsburgh Pirates, could also be selected.
The biggest recruit that would put a dent in UH’s class of 2011 is Carmichael, who is arguably the best defensive catching prospect on the West Coast.
Even though he had to sit out his senior season due to transfer rules after leaving Kamehameha for Mililani, Carmichael is considered the top high school prospect in Hawaii.
Baseball America also projects 2011 UH signees Taylor and Kenny McDowall, a right-hander from the College of Southern Nevada, as possible draft picks.
Taylor, a 6-foot-6 converted shortstop, is a project, but his large frame and athletic build have Baseball America projecting him going between the fifth and eighth rounds.
"When a high school kid gets drafted, if it’s not in the first couple of rounds, it’s a mistake for that kid to sign," Trapasso said. "I’ve got to get on the phone and convey to some of those guys the fact that you need to go school, get an education, play in a great atmosphere at Hawaii for a program that we think has gotten over the hump and can be a program that will have a lot of special memories for them in the next three or four years."
Round 1 of the draft gets under way today at 1 p.m., with rounds 2-30 tomorrow and 31-50 on Wednesday.
Tomorrow and Wednesday’s rounds will begin at 6 a.m. and can be followed live on MLB.com.