Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League Top 5 Prospects
After fielding six teams last season, the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League was forced to play with just four teams in 2012 due to a lack of pitching, but that didn't stop the league from crowning the Hawaii Aliis the champions after they dispatched the Waikiki Surfers 8-3 in the championship game. The Aliis got eight strong innings from starter John Franklin (Cal Poly Pomona), and infielder Kaden Kamoe (Sierra, Calif., JC) rapped out four hits as Hawaii jumped out to an early lead and cruised to victory.
Because the league went down to four teams, the talent pool was shallow, so we present a list of the HCBL's top five prospects.
1. David Hickey, lhp, Waikiki (Jr., Yale)
Hickey's summer ended early when he jumped off a waterfall, landed sideways and broke his collarbone, but before he left, he made quite an impression. A lefthander with a very projectable 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, Hickey used a fastball that sat 88-89 and excellent command of all three of his pitches to compile a 1.80 ERA and a 29-5 strikeout-walk mark in 35 innings. The Bulldogs used Hickey primarily out of the bullpen last spring, and he was effective, finishing 1-4, 3.43 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 42 innings, but he has the body and effortless delivery to have a shot as a starter.
Hickey's transition to starter will likely depend on his ability to develop his secondary pitches. His 11-to-5 curveball has some bite but needs honing before it will effectively get hitters out at the next level. He still has a tendency to slow his arm down slightly on his changeup, but it has solid downward life, giving it some potential. Hickey isn't a finished product, but as a big-bodied, projectable lefthander with the makings of a solid three-pitch repertoire, he figures to get a chance in pro ball.
2. Mick VanVossen, rhp, Oahu (So., Michigan State)
As a freshman this spring, VanVossen made seven starts—primarily against midweek opponents—and finished 4-0, 3.47 with 21 strikeouts and 16 walks in 47 innings. VanVossen carried that momentum into the summer and was one of the better pitchers in the league, going 3-2, 2.93 with 21 strikeouts in 31 innings. VanVossen was impressive enough to earn a stint in the Cape Cod League toward the end of the summer, though he struggled there in limited action. Armed with a fastball that tops out at 91 and sits 88-89, VanVossen won't blow anyone away, but he does have three secondary offerings (curveball, slider, changeup) that he throws consistently for strikes. His advanced feel for pitching is his best asset. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, VanVossen has room to add more muscle to his frame, and his work ethic garners very positive reports. His delivery is also free and easy, and he does an excellent job of repeating it. If he can add some strength and fastball velocity, VanVossen's stock could climb rapidly.
3. Ben McQuown, cf, Waikiki (Sr., Campbell)
An island native who has spent most of his summers playing in the league, McQuown is a well-known name on this particular summer circuit, and he usually leads the league in praise from coaches—not just for his play, but also for his work ethic, hustle, attitude and heart. Generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, McQuown draws a lot of Shane Victorino comparisons for their shared home of Hawaii and shared affinity for gritty play. After transferring from junior college to Campbell last spring, McQuown got his first taste of Division I baseball and responded by starting 57 games and hitting .315/.390/366 with 37 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 32 attempts for the 41-18 Camels. He was even better this summer, finishing with a .326/.444/.407 slash line in 135 at-bats, with 23 stolen bases in 28 attempts. His quick hands, short swing, and advanced plate discipline make him difficult to strike out, and he has the bat control to hit the ball hard to all fields. He won't ever develop much pop thanks to his smallish stature, but he is a smart hitter with above-average on-base skills who could make an impact at the top of the order. Where McQuown truly shines is in the outfield. A 6.5-6.55 runner in the 60-yard dash, McQuown used his plus-plus speed and excellent instincts to earn distinction as the league's best defender. His range, and fundamentals will play in center field, where his arm is adequate at best.
4. Robert Kahana, rhp, Oahu (So., Kansas)
Kahana made the list after impressing last summer, when he was a recent high school graduate competing against older players. This summer, after a successful freshman campaign for the Jayhawks, it was obvious that the coaching and weight-training program in Lawrence helped Kahana make significant strides as a pitcher. Kansas wasted no time throwing Kahana into the fire as a freshman, and he responded by leading the team in appearances and compiling three wins, a 3.76 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 69 innings. He was even better this summer, going 2-0, 2.00 with 22 strikeouts in 27 innings for the Paddlers. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Kahana has a solid frame. His whippy arm action and max-effort delivery make him a surefire reliever at the next level, but if he wants to be successful in pro ball, he will need to work on his secondary offerings. His fastball tops out at 91 and sits 87-89 with average life, and while he can throw both his curveball and slider consistently for strikes, neither is an out pitch currently. He has only just begun to work on throwing a changeup. Although he won't scare anyone with his stuff, Kahana is a bulldog on the mound.
5. Alec Keller, of, Waikiki (Jr., Princeton)
The Ivy League was well represented this summer on the islands, and perhaps no one represented it better than Keller. The Tigers' second-leading hitter last spring showed off his impressive hit tool again this summer, easily leading the league in hitting by posting a .420/.454/.482 line in 112 at-bats while also walking (seven) more than he struck out (six). A sturdy 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds with room to grow, Keller is never going to develop even average power, but he makes up for that with plus bat speed, a short, inside-out swing, and advanced feel for the strike zone. Those traits make Keller particularly difficult to strike out and give him gap-to-gap power with the ability to hit the ball to all fields. Keller isn't yet a consistent threat to swipe some bags, but he does have above-average speed that keeps opposing pitchers honest.
Defensively, Keller's versatility makes him a useful college player, but questions remain about his future position at the next level. The Surfers played him around the infield this summer, but his future seems to lie at one of the corner outfield spots, where his strong arm will play nicely. That said, he is still raw in the outfield, which is to be expected given how often he has shifted positions. His routes to the ball and his footwork could use some fine-tuning. Ultimately, his future will be determined by whether he can hit enough to hold down a corner spot.