13 players with ties to Hawaii taken in 2017 MLB Draft
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over the course of three days, after 40 rounds and 1,205 players were selected, 13 players with Hawaii ties got the call from the big leagues.
It started early Tuesday on day two with Punahou graduate and Oregon State standout KJ Harrison going in the 3rd round, 84th overall, to the Milwaukee Brewers.
"I actually got right out of my final [exam} and I got a call saying that I was about to get drafted," Harrison said. "I was talking to my dad, so it was a pretty special moment."
The Kailua native is hitting .330 this season with a team-leading eight home runs as his Beavers will chase a national championship at the College World Series beginning Saturday.
"It's been a pretty crazy few days here and there," Harrison said. "It's been nothing but a blessing and I'm truly honored and so thankful to be in this position."
Ryley Widell became the first King Kekaulike High School graduate ever drafted when he went in the seventh round to the Minnesota Twins. Widell has spent the last two seasons pitching for Central Arizona College and was signed to play at the University of North Carolina next season, but he will sign with the Twins according to the Maui News.
'Iolani alum Tanner Nishioka was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the ninth round, putting his plans to attend medical school on hold after tearing up Division III baseball at Pomona-Pitzer College in California.
Hilo High School's Joey Jarneski went early on Wednesday, the final day of the draft, the 374th selection and 12th round pick of the Texas Rangers.
Gatorade State Player of the Year Joey Cantillo of Kailua High School was taken in the 16th round by the San Diego Padres. Cantillo has a scholarship to play at the University of Kentucky next season, but says he'll sit down with his family and discuss the best option for him and make a decision sooner than the July 15th deadline to sign.
"It was definitely a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life," Cantillo said of finding out he'd be drafted. "I always grew up as a kid wanting to play professional baseball. You always tell yourself you want to be drafted after your senior year of high school and stuff, but you never really know, there are so many things that can happen. To see all my hard work pay off, it feels good and it's really rewarding."
Kobie Russell of Waipahu High School was selected in the 17th round, 519th overall, by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Two recent graduates from the University of Hawaii came off the board in the middle rounds Wednesday. Big West honorable mention Casey Ryan became the first UH player drafted since 2015 when he was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the 18th round. Ryan was a shutdown reliever, leading the 'Bows with a 1.52 ERA.
"Just a dream come true," Ryan said. "Ever since I was four-and-a-half years old I just wanted to become a professional baseball player. All the years and time and dedication I've put in, it all becomes worth it. It's such a special moment for me and a my family. The Cubs are an amazing organization, amazing coaches, amazing players. It's going to be an awesome journey and a fun ride."
Rainbow Warriors third baseman Josh Rojas was selected eight rounds later in the 26th by the Houston Astros. The All-Big-West second-team pick hit a team-best five home runs and posted six triples as a senior, the most by a UH player since 1997. Rojas was back home in Arizona monitoring the draft until the 22nd round when he decided to stop following it and go to lunch. His parents called not long after saying he had been drafted by the only team he worked out for.
"After going to the workout I was definitely looking at some of their players and saw they like to bring players up through their system, start them when they're young and work them to the major league level," Rojas said. "I'm really excited to start working, I know it's going to be a grind once I get there. Going from a senior into pro ball, I know you go from the top of the totem pole to the bottom, so it's a grind I'm definitely going to be ready to embrace."
Three players from UH's incoming recruiting class were drafted. Jonny Homza, an infielder from Anchorage, Alaska, was taken in the 5th round by the San Diego Padres. Six-foot-five pitching prospect Cade Smith went to the Twins in the 16th round. Austin Rubick, an incoming pitcher from Ventura College, was the Brewers 20th round pick.
Hawaii Pacific senior pitcher Matthew Gunter was the 999th overall pick in the 33rd round by the Blue Jays. Gunter was second in the PacWest with a 2.09 ERA last season, as well as a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-America honorable mention.
"We are so proud of Matt and wish him the best on his start in professional baseball," said HPU Coach Garrett Yukumoto. "He has been our shining star this season."
Punahou High School's Cole Cabrera went off the board in the 37th round to the Tampa Bay Rays. Cabrera is committed to play at Cal Poly.
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