PHOENIX—A full slate of games on Thursday at the Peoria Sports Complex, home of the Mariners and Padres spring training facilities, kick-started the 19th annual Arizona Senior Fall Classic.
The 65-team field is primarily filled with teams from the West Coast and Canada. The event brings players from hard-to-reach locales for scouts and college coaches, such as Montana righthander Gage Hinsz last year, who signed for a third-round bonus ($580,000) with the Pirates after being selected in the 11th round in June.
Two teams from the Team Hawaii program, Gold and Blue, squared off in the most heavily-attended game of the event, with more than 60 scouts present, including multiple scouting directors. Scouts got to see almost all of the top arms from Hawaii, as the pitchers rolled out for one-inning stints.
The outing by righthander Ian Kahaloa (Campbell High, Ewa Beach, Hawaii) ensured that scouts will again travel to Hawaii next spring to see pitching talent one year after Kodi Medeiros became the highest-ever-drafted Hawaiian and Jordan Yamamoto signed for fifth-round money ($330,000).
The scene to watch Kahaloa pitch was reminiscent of Jupiter, Fla., (sans the legions of golf carts) as the waves of scouts went rows deep, leaving some scouts in the back simply hoping to see a radar gun reading.
Kahaloa popped 88 mph on his first pitch but then began to ramp up his velocity, sitting 88-93 with a quick arm from a three-quarters arm slot.
“I normally hit 91 or 92 but I felt good today,” Kahaloa. “I have been working hard and doing a lot of long toss and band work recently. It has helped me loosen up my arm. I long toss every other day.”
There was some disagreement among scouts about the top velocity Kahaloa touched. As many as five guns had him up to 95 on a pitch he airmailed to the backstop, while multiple other guns had 93.
Kahaloa offers a four-pitch mix but did not use his curveball in this one-inning stint.
“The changeup wasn’t working as well today,” Kahaloa said. “My slider was pretty good today. I have a curveball that I didn’t throw today. They all work well, but my slider is my go to pitch.”
Kahaloa is working to sharpen his changeup.
“I have to improve my fastball and changeup because I feel my curveball and slider are pretty good,” Kahaloa said.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Kahaloa, a former football player who is focusing on baseball now, has a solid build with strength through his chest and shoulders, as well as some physicality to his lower half, having gained close to 25 pounds in the last year.
The uncommitted Kahaloa is still weighing his options for school but plans to make a decision later this fall. He will throw again over multiple innings on Saturday in what should again be a well-attended game.
• The Region 9 Sophomore Junior College Showcase was held on Thursday night, gathering the top junior college players from the region, with seven teams represented. The pitchers rolled out for one-inning stints and righthander Edwin Suarez of New Mexico JC had the top velocity of the game as his fastball sat 89-93 and touched 94 twice. The athletic Suarez spent time as a two-way infielder. He has a quick arm and the ball jumped out of his hand. Suarez has a max-effort delivery and worked exclusively from the stretch. He has a wrist wrap in the back and some rigidity to the front side of his delivery that featured a head whack. His use of his lower half in his drop-and-drive delivery was inconsistent towards the outing of his outing, causing inconsistent strike-throwing ability. Scouts were disappointed that he did not throw a breaking ball in game action. His delivery, height and control likely give him a reliever profile. But his arm strength means that scouts will see him in the spring.
• Righthander Ian Doughty, Suarez’s teammate at New Mexico JC who threw one inning at Pepperdine this spring, drew praise from scouts as one of the top pitchers of the event. The 6-foot-3 Doughty sat 90-92, touching 93 with some ease to his delivery.