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Lost baseball season might mean more returnees for University of Hawaii

  • ANDREW LEE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
                                Jeremy Wu-Yelland is Hawaii’s only player projected to be drafted into professional baseball this year.

    ANDREW LEE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

    Jeremy Wu-Yelland is Hawaii’s only player projected to be drafted into professional baseball this year.

Next year’s University of Hawaii baseball team will be shaped by a ruling last week and another measure set for Monday.

Entering the recently canceled 2020 season, as many as eight UH juniors were projected to be selected in the Major League Draft for First-Year Players. But MLB decided to whittle the 40-round draft to five or 10 rounds, with a cap of $20,000 per undrafted free agent. Jeremy Wu-Yelland, a left-hander whose fastball touches 97 mph, is projected as UH’s only top-five-round prospect.

For the undrafted, UH coach Mike Trapasso wondered, “Would you sign for $20,000 or come back and finish school?”

Last year, former UH pitcher Dylan Thomas received a signing bonus of $100,000 for being the Minnesota Twins’ 13th-round draft choice.

On Monday, the NCAA’s Division I council will decide whether seniors of spring sports will be allowed an extra season to make up for the one lost because of cancellations from the COVID-19 pandemic.

If juniors return to school, seniors are given an extra season, and committed recruits join, the Rainbow Warriors, similar to other Division I baseball teams, will have a rich person’s problem of an abundance of talent.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the results of (Monday’s) vote,” Trapasso said. “That will at least give us an understanding of what the framework is that we have to abide by.”

Trapasso said he does not know which way the NCAA council will rule. The council could follow the Division II rule giving all spring-sport players their season back. The council also could offer the extension to this year’s seniors, or not provide any extension at all.

If seniors are allowed to compete in 2020, there is a possibility limits would be increased. Division I baseball teams are currently restricted to splitting the value of 11.7 scholarships among 27 players, with a roster limit of 35.

“We’ll know those answers on Monday,” Trapasso said. “At least that will give us some parameters.”

College coaches are used to making roster adjustments. With past drafts in early June, coaches had a month to learn which drafted recruits would join and which juniors would return to school. MLB officials floated the possibility of holding the draft on July 20. That would shorten the window for coaches to adjust their rosters. UH’s fall semester is scheduled to begin Aug. 24.

The ’Bows have four seniors — pitcher Logan Pouelsen, catcher Tyler Murray and designated hitters Brennen Hancock and Ryder Kuhns. Among the juniors, the top draft prospects are pitchers Wu-Yelland, Cade Smith, Brandon Ross and Carter Loewen, third baseman Dustin Demeter, shortstop Kole Kaler, first baseman Alex Baez and outfielder/first baseman Adam Fogel. The ’Bows also received 12 commitments in November.

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