Make it nine consecutive years that a player with Hilo ties has been selected in the MLB Draft.
UH-Hilo alum Dylan Spain was tabbed Monday in the 10th round by the Atlanta Braves, despite having not pitched for the Vulcans since 2019.
UHH’s former ace was caught off guard, but he wasn’t lacking in confidence.
“I was pretty surprised to go in the 10th round, having not played collegiately for the past two years,” Spain said. “But I feel like I belong in that slot. I am looking forward to the opportunity.”
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Spain, a hard-throwing right-hander from Honolulu, redshirted in 2020 while dealing with a nagging inflammation. That season was ultimately cut short by the pandemic, and as certain resources at UHH remained on hold, he said, he opted to sit out the 2021 season to prepare for the draft.
The decision paid off when the Braves took him with the 307th overall selection, making him the third-highest UHH alum to be drafted, the eighth overall and the first since the Jordan Kurokawa was taken by the Phillies in 2016 in the 28th round.
Working with on Oahu strength coach Darin Yap and Ashkhon Kuhaulua of Academy of Missing Barrels this year, Spain said he hit 95-96 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball for the first time, and he repeated those velocities recently for Braves area scout Dan Cox.
“I definitely think with more work I can hit triple digits,” Spain said.
UHH coach Kallen Miyataki agreed, calling the 24-year-old Spain a “late-bloomer” whose best pitching is yet to come
“I expect him to peak in three to four years,” Miyataki said. “He worked very diligently and worked very hard to get where he wanted to go. Everything is in front of him.”
In his third season with the Vuls, Spain was 5-1 with a 3.80 ERA on the 2019 team that finished second in the PacWest and brought the program its first winning season since 1992.
“The first conversation I had with Kallen we talked about that we wanted to change the program to a winning one,” Spain said. “I did what I wanted to do. I became the ace and led the team to a winning season.”
Miyataki said he first started recruiting Spain his junior year at Saint Louis, when he was 6-1 or 6-2 and “nobody wanted him.” He likens his potential to Tyler Yates, who threw in the 89-91 MPH range at UHH before blossoming and throwing much harder during a five-year career in the major leagues
“He was a very good competitor and there was upside,” Miyataki said of Spain’s recruitment. “(UHH) was great program for him to develop his skills.”
The same could be said for the Hilo went it comes to generating future draft picks.
Since 2013, when Waiakea alum Kean Wong went in the fourth round to the Tampa Bay Rays, 10 players with Hilo ties have been drafted. That list includes seven high school players as well as Hawaii’s Quintin Torres-Costa, a Waiakea alum.
The Vulcans’ highest-drafted player was Derek Diaz, an eighth-round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1983. In 2000, UHH’s Brandon Chaves went in the 10th round (299 overall) to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The slot value for Spain’s pick is listed at $143,200. He hadn’t signed as of Monday afternoon, but he said the Braves want him to get to their rookie ball facility this week to begin his pro career.
“They just talked about me being healthy and giving them innings, just like I did with UH-Hilo, pretty much as soon as possible,” he said.
Spain was the second player with Hawaii ties to hear his name called Monday. Hawaii pitcher Aaron Davenport went in the sixth round to the Cleveland Indians.
The draft concludes Tuesday with rounds 11-20. The Big Island’s top high school prospect is Konawaena graduate and Hawaii signee Bronson Rivera. The infielder isn’t listed on MLB.com’s Draft Tracker. The only high school prospect listed on the database page for Hawaii is Caleb Lomavita, a catcher from Saint Louis.
Draft hot spot
A player with Hilo ties has been selected in nine consecutive MLB drafts.
Year Player School Round Team
2013 Kean Wong Waiakea 4th Rays
2014 Kodi Medeiros Waiakea 1st Brewers
2014 Jodd Carter Hilo 24th Indians
2015 Quintin Torres-Costa UH (Waiakea) 35th Brewers
2016 Jordan Kurokawa UHH 28th Phillies
2017 Joey Jarneski Hilo 12th Rangers
2018 Micah Bello Hilo 2nd Brewers
2019 Edgar Barclay CSUB (St. Joe) 15th Yankees
2020 Kalai Rosario Waiakea 5th Twins
2021 Dylan Spain UHH 10th Braves