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By Allan Simpson
(Talent Ranking: * out of five) It's one of the leanest draft crops in years in Hawaii. There are no premium high school players and the University of Hawaii, in the midst of a rebuilding campaign to restore a once-proud program to greatness, has no junior class to speak of. Lefthander Mark Rodriguez might have been the team's first pick, but he went down with a season-ending elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery. Cal State Fullerton catcher Kurt Suzuki is the best prospect with connections to the islands. A Hawaii high school product, he's projected to go as a sandwich pick or second-rounder.
Projected First-Round Picks
Second- to Fifth-Round Talent
Others To Watch
• Mainland scouts relish at the prospect of checking out Hawaii's best talent, but few could justify the trek this spring. Not only is the talent thin, but also no one was sure who the state's top prospect is. Six-foot-4, 210-pound 3B Leonard Zalopany has his supporters. He has lefthanded power potential and his defense improved during the course of the spring.
• RHP Kaneoka Texeira made his case to be Hawaii's best talent when his fastball reached 92-93 mph in the fall, but he had a poor spring as his velocity fell into the mid-80s.
• LHP Mark Rodriguez was a possible selection for the first 10 rounds until he injured his elbow, necessitating Tommy John surgery. No one at the University of Hawaii stepped up in his absence, though RHP Ricky Bauer had a fine season, going 8-2, 2.92 while walking just nine in 92 innings. But his velocity, best on the staff, topped out at 88.
• OF Greg Kish, a transfer from Oklahoma, led the Western Athletic Conference in hitting much of the spring but has no power, and the rest of his tools are barely average. C Creighton Kahaolii transferred back home after three years at California, where he played sparingly in three seasons. A top prospect out of high school, he was rusty but showed an above-average arm.
• SS Brian Finegan is a steady player in the field.
• LHP Myles Ioane, a Hawaii signee, used an 86-88 mph fastball and solid breaking ball to post several 18- and 19-strikeout games this spring.
• Crosscheckers also didn't have a compelling reason to travel to Alaska, especially after OF Juan Buck, the state's best prospect, got an opportunity to showcase his talent in Arizona during spring training. He's big, tall and athletic with power potential but is considered a long way off. He's a candidate to be a late-round, draft-and-follow pick.