How about Hawaii, baby?
What a sweet gig.
The Hawaiian Winter Baseball League is back after a nine-year absence and the four-team circuit kicked off action a couple of weeks ago with an array of top prospects from around the world.
Back in the day, HWB was a breeding ground for North American and Japanese league prospects. Its alumni reads like a who’s who of diamond heros: Aaron Boone, Adam Kennedy, A.J. Pierzynski, Bill Mueller, Craig Counsell, Derrek Lee, Ramon Ortiz, Jason Giambi, Kaz Matsui, Mark Kotsay, Michael Barrett, Preston Wilson, Randy Winn, Russ Ortiz, So Taguchi, Tad Iguchi, Terrence Long, Ichiro Suzuki, Kenji Johjima and Todd Helton.
The Mariners have sent their first rounder from 2005, catcher Jeff Clement, to the Hawaii Baseball League, but he’s struggling at .174 through nine games with no extra-base hits for the Waikiki Beachboys.
Let’s face it, it can’t be easy to get motivated in such a ‘hang loose’ environment.
Prospects who are faring well include:
- Paco Figueroa, a 23-year-old second baseman in the Orioles’ organization, hit .284 in 90 games and 345 at-bats at High-A this year. He’s a speedster with a nice batting eye. Figueroa leads the HWB in hitting at .333 through 39 at-bats with no homers, nine RBI, five steals, four doubles and a sweet .460 OBP.
- Japanese lefty Kanehisa Arime is 3-0, 0.34, and has given up a mere 10 hits in 26 1/3 innings. He’s 28 but looks post-worthy with those kind of numbers.
- Eric Campbell, the Braves’ third baseman of the future, is looking strong.
- Koby Clemens — yes, that’s Roger’s son — is tied for second in the league with 10 runs.
We’ll try to bring you periodic updates of fantasy-worthy names playing in Winter Leagues over the offseason. Until then, Aloha!