Hawaii Pacific University, on Oahu, is probably most famous for it’s one Alumni that made the Majors, Benny Agbayani. Agbayani was drafted twice, in 1992 and 1993, both times by the Angels. He had a fine major league career: .806 OPS, 39 HR and 1.3 WAR over 5 seasons. Right now there is only one professional player that hails from HPU, and that is Yankee minor league infielder Kale Sumner.
But I would imagine that some of HPU current squad might be joining Sumner in pro ball, highlighted by the teams ace Rico Garcia.
Garcia is having an impressive season. Last week against one of the best D2 teams in the nation (6th Ranked Fresno State), he struck out 10 in 6 innings. He walked a few…but that was more the umpire, who whose love of balls and balks was on full display. He is the Pacific West Conference as Pitcher of the Week, and won again tonight against Holy Names. He also has a very nice little fan club of family and friends–including his dad–that attends almost all the games. His dad is a very cool dude, and has been a lot of fun to talk to at games.
On the season he is now 3-0 in 3 games. He has allowed 17 hits in 18 IP, striking out 22 while walking 12. Guys are batting .254 off him.
These stats are good…but D2 stats can sometimes be a little misleading, so just because a guy is putting up good numbers does not necessarily mean his is a legit prospect.
That is not the case here.
This past summer Garcia played in the Northwoods League with the Kenosha Kingfish. He was coming off a stellar season with HPU (4-0, 84 IP, 74 K with a 2.68 ERA). The NWL is second only to the Cape Cod league on the Summer League totem pole, and success there is viewed as pretty legit. Against some of the better college players in the country Garcia put up awesome numbers: 66.1 IP, 49 hits allowed to 51 K for a 1.90 ERA. He was selected to the All-Star team, and was selected as the NWL 10th best prospect by the leagues Field Managers. He did not make the “Baseball America” top 10, but I am thinking that was more because the league blocked BA from talking to the coaches and players because of squabble over BA’s coverage. It’s a bummer, since a full scouting report from the BA staff would have been a lot of fun to read.
Garcia is draft eligible this June, and I have to think that some team is going to snag him. I don’t think that playing at a D2 school has hurt his visibility, and his tools–mid 90’s fast ball, three solid pitches (and I think a fourth, a cutter?). He is 5-11, but has been nothing but a workhorse: last season he pitched a 12 inning complete game, setting a HPU record with 16 K’s. I was reading that his summer league manager Duffy Dyer had plenty of nice things to say about him, noting “[his] advanced for his age in fielding, holding runners on, ability to change speeds and his overall composure on the mound.”
HPU rotation would obviously be hobbled by his loss, but I think that he could easily be dropped into Low-A ball and hold his own. I am not sure how teams handle D2 pitchers, but someone as seasoned as Garcia could probably skip post-draft Rookie/Short Season leagues and just jump into full season ball. Would he be a
reliever or starter? That is a good question. I would think most teams would stick with him as a starter and see how he holds up over a full season, and if needed he could be a power arm out of the pen. Either way, his talent would be put to good use.