Hawaii Leads Impressive 2013 Recruiting Classes
See Also: 2013 HS Top 100 Prospects With Commitments
See Also: 50 Players Who Just Missed The Cut
It is as commonplace for scouts to rip the quality of a college draft class as it is for college coaches to complain about professional teams becoming more aggressive signing players out of high school. But heading into 2013, both of those gripes have merit.
Our annual early high school Top 100 prospects lists provide an instructive snapshot. From 2005 through 2008, an average of 50.25 players who graced our high school Top 100 list in November wound up arriving on college campuses the following fall. But just 40 members of the 2009 early Top 100 went to school, and just 43 of the 2010 Top 100 wound up bypassing the draft.
This is an inexact measure, of course. For one thing, it is inevitable that some of the players who looked like Top 100 talents in November will see their stock drop by June. Still, this data supports the common perception that pro teams have started pursuing high school talent more vigorously.
"I think we're starting to feel the hit of clubs signing so many high school kids the past few years," one scout told BA this summer, bemoaning the lackluster college crop.
Scouts are generally satisfied with the depth of college pitching available in 2013. The most common criticism of the college class from scouts is that it lacks impact bats, especially at up-the-middle positions.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement significantly curtailed the amount of money teams can spend on the draft, but it did not reverse the trend of pro teams signing more high school players. In fact, just 34 members of the November 2011 high school Top 100 arrived at campuses this fall—and just 30 of those went to Division I schools.
There are several possible explanations for this decline. Perhaps players simply understand that pro teams have limited spending pools available to them, so they are willing to sign for less than they would have in the past. Maybe moving the signing deadline from mid-August to mid-July gave players less time to get comfortable with the idea of going to college.
Whatever the explanation, the bottom line is that loading up on Top 100 recruits in the early signing period does not ensure a strong recruiting class will show up on campus the following fall. That is even more true of Top 50 recruits—typically no more than a dozen of those players wind up on college campuses.
Schools with a good volume of recruits in the 51-100 range have better chances to reap rewards next fall. When the high school Top 100 list was released, Conor Glassey listed 50 more players
who just missed the Top 100 cut. Recruits in that 101-150 group offer a nice balance of talent along with a solid chance to wind up in school.
Here are a few schools that stand out for landing a host of players in that No. 50-150 sweet spot. Our list of winners includes a half-dozen "usual suspects" when it comes to recruiting prowess (including four from the powerhouse Southeastern Conference), but we'll start off with a team that has never appeared in BA's 13-year-old recruiting class rankings—and looks poised to factor prominently into those rankings in 2013.
The Rainbows have a rich baseball tradition, which includes 13 trips to regionals (most recently in 2010). The program enters a new era this spring when it leaves the Western Athletic Conference behind to join the Big West. With an early signing class that features five quality recruits who rank among the nation's top 150, Hawaii could quickly establish itself as a force to be reckoned with in its new conference.
The prospect of moving into the Big West has helped the Rainbows on the recruiting trail, especially among Southern California prospects like lefthander Blake Taylor and slugger Jake Bauers, who both fall into that 101-150 group of desirable recruiting targets.
"The Southern California recruiting we've been able to do the last couple years is, I think, a direct correlation of going into the Big West," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "It's now a situation where kids can experience the best of all worlds. They can experience all that Hawaii has to offer—we have a great facility, and the last couple of years we've led entire West region in attendance. Now to be able to play in the Big West, and play all of our road games in SoCal for the most part, has opened some eyes of some of the kids in SoCal. They can play in front of family and friends about half the season when we're playing Big West games on the road."
In addition to giving the Rainbows additional recruiting clout in Southern California, the move to the Big West will have other benefits. The Big West has a stronger history of sending multiple teams to regionals, and playing teams like Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and Long Beach State will give Hawaii a significant boost in the Ratings Percentage Index. And, of course, it is a much better geographic fit.
"No doubt, it's a little easier to fly to LAX than it is to Shreveport or Las Cruces," Trapasso said.
Those are all factors that make Hawaii a more desirable location for recruits, but the Rainbows already do very well on the islands. As Trapasso points out, there are no professional sports teams in Hawaii, so the Rainbows dominate the sports-entertainment scene in a state of 1.3 million people. In the last five years, Hawaii has upgraded the turf, seats, roof and lights at Les Murakami Stadium, making a good home venue even better.
So it should be no surprise that the linchpins of Hawaii's early signing class are Hawaii natives Marcus Doi (No. 49), Iolana Akau (No. 97) and Kean Wong (in the 101-150 group). And there is reason to believe all three players will be Rainbows next fall.
Doi has drawn plenty of interest from scouts for his natural hitting ability and his athleticism, but he's a 6-foot, righthanded-hitting outfielder, and players with that profile are often strong bets to head to college. Akau has outstanding catch-and-throw skills and superb leadership qualities, but his bat is not pro-ready—though Trapasso thinks "he's got the skill set for his bat to come." Wong's skill set is similar to that of his older brother Kolten, a former Hawaii star-turned-first-round pick. He has speed, athleticism and a compact line-drive stroke, but he also lacks prototype size.
Trapasso knows there is a risk that he could lose one or two of his headliners, but the Rainbows appear to have a strong chance to welcome a marquee foundation class next fall.
"That's what you're looking for: having kids who are high profile enough to be solid drafts but not high enough to where they would give up the chance to go to school and improve on that draft status in three years," Trapasso said. "It's definitely not an exact science. With recruiting now, a lot of these kids we've had recruited for over a year, and a lot of times kids make a jump in that time. So you think they're tweeners in the draft, then they wind up being high-profile guys and higher drafts. But if you can hold on to half or more, you've got a great class."
The Rebels signed a potential headliner in outfielder J.B. Woodman (No. 30), but even if they lose him, their class is loaded with depth. Shortstop Errol Robinson (No. 92) is Mississippi's only other Top 100 recruit, but outfielder Peyton Attaway, shortstop Brantley Bell, second baseman Dalton Dulin and outfielder Carlos Williams all fell into the 101-150 range. And projectable lefthander Evan Anderson is another potential impact recruit with loads of upside.
"We had eight kids who were at East Coast Pro in that class, and all are pretty toolsy," Ole Miss recruiting coordinator Carl Lafferty said. "This is more like the class I had (two years ago), where I had a lot of kids who could go in that 4-10 round range. It just depends on signability."
The Gators tied Ole Miss for the most players (four) in the 101-150 group: shortstop Christian Arroyo, righties Tyler Danish and Dane Dunning, and lefty Scott Moss. Two-way talent A.J. Puk (No. 18) and righthander Brett Morales (No. 21) are more significant draft risks, but landing either one would be a nice boon for Florida. Third baseman John Sternagel (No. 55) is the other UF signee in the Top 100, and he could wind up as the anchor of this class.
The Wildcats signed five players in the top 150, including three in the 60-80 range (righthanders Clinton Hollon and Trevor Clifton, plus shortstop Connor Heady). Javon Shelby, brother of former Kentucky star John Shelby, landed in the 101-150 group. And lefty Hunter Green (No. 32) gives this class a potential marquee centerpiece.
With four players in the Top 100 and two others in the 101-150 group, South Carolina has lined up another strong class. Third baseman Travis Demeritte (No. 17) and catcher Nick Ciuffo (No. 19) are serious draft risks, but the Gamecocks stand solid chances to land outfielder K.J. Woods (No. 81) and two-way talent Cory Thompson (No. 93). Righties Wil Crow and Taylor Widener join them inside the top 150.
USD faces long odds when it comes to getting catcher Reese McGuire (No. 4) and lefties Stephen Gonsalves (No. 13) and Ian Clarkin (No. 14) to campus. But as a private school with a great campus in a desirable city, the Toreros have landed their share of big-ticket recruits in the past (most notably Brian Matusz, Kyle Blair, Kris Bryant and Dylan Covey). And San Diego's other impact recruits look like solid bets to get to school: shortstop Terrian Arbet (No. 74), righty Andrew Church (No. 90), outfielder Ryan Kirby and second baseman Seve Romo (both of whom landed in 101-150 territory).
The Bruins have a chance to follow up their No. 2 ranked 2012 recruiting class with another stellar haul in 2013. UCLA's class features six players inside the top 150, and just one (No. 22 Dustin Driver) is in the Top 50 danger zone. Versatile up-the-middle athlete Dom Nunez (No. 54) and polished lefthander Jonah Wesely (No. 61) join Driver as Top 100 targets, while righty Steven Farinaro, second baseman Gosuke Katoh and outfielder Kort Peterson fall into the 101-150 range.