Baseball ‘Bows have fair share of prospects

Hawaii right-hander Cade Smith is ranked as the third-best prospect for the 2020 MLB Draft in the Big West by D1Baseball. / Photo by Darryl Oumi, Special to the Star-Advertiser

The Big West preseason baseball poll as voted on by league coaches comes out Wednesday, but there have been other preseason prognostications for the conference that show Hawaii has its fair share of MLB Draft prospects.

The season preview of the Big West has Hawaii finishing sixth at 11-13 (identical to last season) in a conference that is expected to be much improved in 2019.

In terms of individual talent however, Hawaii right-hander Dylan Thomas, who UH coach Mike Trapasso said will start the season opener on Feb. 15 against Portland, is listed as the fourth-best MLB Draft prospect for 2019.

Thomas, who is 6-foot-4, went 3-2 with a 1.85 ERA and tied the program record with 14 saves in a season as a sophomore. His draft stock exploded over the summer in the Cape Cod League where he had 33 strikeouts and two walks in 22 2/3 innings.

Only UC Irvine, which has the top three prospects in RHP Andre Pallante, SS Christian Koss and 3B Brandon Lewis for 2019, has players listed ahead of Thomas.

Perennial BWC power Cal State Fullerton only has two prospects ranked in the top 20 while Hawaii outfielder Adam Fogel (No. 14), shortstop Maaki Yamazaki (No. 16) and infielder Dustin Demeter (No. 20) also made the list. Demeter will miss the season due to injury, however.

A look ahead to the Class of 2020 has Hawaii as the only team with two of the top five prospects in the Big West. Right-hander Cade Smith (No. 3) and left-hander Jeremy Yelland (No. 5) made the list.

Smith went 1-2 with a 4.62 ERA as a freshman but posted a nice 37 strikeouts in 39 innings and is 88 to 92 with his fastball with room to grow. Yelland was just 1-3 with a 6.14 ERA last season but struck out 32 in 29 1/3 innings and has scouts salivating at a fastball from the left side that can touch 96 according to the preview.

With Demeter out for the season, Hawaii returns only three position players who started more than 25 games last season, but D1Baseball projects all three — Fogel, Yamazaki and senior Ethan Lopez — to be drafted in the first 15 rounds come June.