HWB Team by Team Preview

HWB Team by Team Preview

As professional players are preparing to take the field in Hawaii, take some time to see who is playing there, and who's worth watching, both from America and from Japan.

HONOLULU SHARKS

Affiliations: Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Pittsburgh Pirates, Rakuten Golden Eagles, Toronto Blue Jays, Yomiuri Giants

Team Strengths: Honolulu will be this year's power hitting team. Led by Blue Jays outfielder Ryan Patterson, the team has several hitters with pop, including Japanese outfielders Atsushi Ugumori and Yoshiyuki Kamei. The team may also be the local favorite, with Atlanta's 1B Kala Ka'aihue and Cleveand's Rodney Choy Foo (both Hawaiian natives) on the team. (Ka'aihue's older brother, Kila Ka'aihue, is on West Oahu's squad).

Prospects Worth Watching: Patterson, a 4th round pick by the Blue Jays, started his pro career strong, but faltered to a degree after a mid-season callup to Double-A. His pop shows some promise. Atlanta's 3B Eric Campbell is another power hitter, after hitting 22 home runs in the South Atlantic League this year, and 18 in 66 games at short season ball in 2005. Campbell doesn't strike out often and has solid speed.

Players From Japan: Ugumori is a highly rated left fielder in Japan, while fellow outfielder Kamei is recovering from a fractured rib suffered this spring and has some pop. Ken Kato was one of Japans top high school catchers in 1998, but hasn't established himself so far in the pros.

Get To Know: Pittsburgh's Brian Bixler, a 2nd round pick in 2004, has moved slowly but steadily through the system. After splitting time in High-A and Double-A this season, Bixler showed improvement in his plate discipline, and showed smaller improvements in other areas. He's looking to cap off a strong year that has put him on the map.

NORTH SHORE HONU

Affiliations: Chiba Lotte Marines, Chicago Cubs, Chunichi Dragons, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, Seibu Lions

Team Strengths: The outfield is particularly strong. Speedy Darren Ford and Lorenzo Cain from the Brewers system will do a good job of setting the table. Meanwhile, Xavier Paul from the Dodgers system could do a lot of driving them in.

Prospects Worth Watching: Ford was the South Atlantic League's 2nd most prolific basestealer with 69 in 84 attempts. Dodgers' reliever Wesley Wright got hit a little after a callup to Double-A, but can get plenty of strikeouts.

Players From Japan: This is not a team with a lot of high level prospects from Japan. Keisuke Hayashi from the Marines, however, leads a pitching staff with 6 Japanese pitchers that should be quite interesting to watch against American hitters.

Get To Know: Kenley Jansen, catcher from the Dodgers. Jansen, signed from the island of Curacao, had an encouraging debut in the Gulf Coast League as a 17 year old in 2005, but regressed repeating the league this year. He has some power in his bat, which could be unlocked at any time, although he may not stay at catcher. He's also known to locals, as he played on the Curacao team that was defeated by the local Hilo team in the Senior League Baseball World Series in 2003.

WAIKIKI BEACH BOYS

Affiliations: Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, Hanshin Tigers, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals

Team Strengths: The Beach Boys are a team of balance. Infielder Eric Young Jr. and outfielder Dexter Fowler from the Rockies will work as table setters, while San Francisco's Nate Schierholtz and Seattle's Sebastian Boucher can knock them in. Meanwhile, the starters will be headed by Colorado's Shane Lindsay and the bullpen headed by SF's Brian Anderson.

Prospects Worth Watching: Young was just a 30th round pick, but he is quickly overcoming the low round he was picked in. Seattle's 1st round pick Jeff Clement is the lone Triple-A player on the team, and could feast on younger pitching. Anderson was the California Pitcher of the Year after setting a league record for saves in a season.

Players From Japan: Waikiki has the lowest number of Japanese-based players with just 5. The one with the highest potential is Tomoaki Egawa, who has a lot of expectations but didn't fulfill them this year. He suffered a dislocated pinky finger in August, and might DH.

Get To Know: Schierholtz, who balanced a disappointing year by having one of the best months of any player in the minors in August. He has as much power potential as anyone, and could continue to hit well in Hawaii.

WEST OAHU CANEFIRES

Affiliations: Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Orix Buffaloes, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Yakult Swallows

Team Strengths: Pitching. The rotation will be anchored by Boston's Ryan Phillips and New York's Jeff Marquez, and has two real wild cards in a couple of Yankee first round picks that ddn't get to play much this season, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy. Yakult's Takashi Maruyama was a high school ace.

Prospects Worth Watching: Chamberlain and Kennedy are the most intriguing, if only due to them having done little to nothing in the summer, and they will be going up against more experienced competition. Yakult's Yasushi Iihara won the MVP in the 2006 Japanese equivalent of the Futures Game, but will be moving from the outfield to third base in the HWB. Mike Stodolka of the Royals was a first round pick as a pitcher in 2000, but just completed his first year as a hitter. Kila Ka'aihue of the Royals (brother of Kala on the Sharks team) had a disappointing year in Double-A, but may show the power he flashed in 2005 back now that he's home.

Players From Japan: Iihara may be the best Japanese player in the HWB. Maruyama pitched for the same high school that Ichiro played at many years ago.

Get To Know: Peter Ciofrone of the Padres. The 22 year old outfielder lost his father at the end of the season, but bounced back to have a strong year at high A. While still moving between the infield and outfield, his plate discipline and doubles power is encouraging for future success. A story about Ciofrone can be found here.


The rosters for the 2006 season of Hawaiian Winter Baseball can be found here.



Love me, hate me, idolize me, or laugh at me, just don't ignore me. Let me know what you think: write me at kevin@ugcfilms.com .

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