By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
A year ago, Kodi Medeiros was an unknown on the national stage, and unranked on the perfectgame.org website, which touts itself as the world’s largest baseball scouting service.
After four high-profile showcases during the summer, the Waiakea senior is ranked as the No. 1 left-handed high school pitcher and a likely first-round pick when the Major League Baseball draft rolls around in June.
On Thursday, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Medeiros gained bargaining leverage when he signed a national letter of intent with Pepperdine, turning down other full-ride scholarships from UCLA, North Carolina, Mississippi State, Arizona, Oregon and BYU.
He said Hawaii offered a 50 percent scholarship and wouldn’t increase its package, the reason he withdrew his verbal commitment before heading to the Perfect Game National Showcase in Minnesota in June. (NCAA Division I baseball teams are allowed only 11.7 scholarships.)
Medeiros also pitched at the Area Code Baseball Games in early August at Long Beach, Calif., the Perfect Game All-American Classic a week later at Petco Park (the San Diego Padres stadium), and the Perfect Game’s WWBA World Championship in Florida last month.
Against fellow blue-chip prep competition, in a combined eight innings, Medeiros allowed no runs, three hits, walked three and struck out 11, drawing praise and first-round projections from baseballamerica.com and scout.com.
“I was facing top talent and it was good to see how I would do against them,” he said. “I kind of know where I stand. Before I was not ranked and now I’m the No. 1 left-handed (prep) pitcher in the nation. It’s very humbling. I would never think someone could be No. 1 in the nation coming from Hawaii. All the hard work is paying off.”
In a report filed Aug. 21, scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel predicted Medeiros would be drafted 24th overall in the MLB draft on June 5 and wrote: “Athletic 6’0 lefty slings 65 slider (on the scouts 20-80 scale) and fastball that’s bumped 95 mph from deceptive low slot that gives hitters fits but slot, size and lack of a changeup make some scouts say reliever.”
Baseball America’s report on Oct. 15 projected Medeiros as the 30th overall pick and wrote: “With a lively fastball up to 95 mph and a power slider, Medeiros pairs electric stuff with an unconventional low slot.”
“I would say my arm slot is low three-quarter,” he said. “The scouts like how I hide the ball and my deception to the plate. When they ask me who I follow in pro baseball, I tell them Chris Sale and Madison Baumgarner. They tell me that I resemble them a lot.”
Sale is a left-hander on the Chicago White Sox and Baumgarner is also a southpaw on the San Francisco Giants. Both have similar arm slots to Medeiros, who is almost a mirror image of Baumgarner from his takeaway (when ball leaves the glove) to the load in his delivery.
“I went into the showcases with a lot of confidence, and threw correct pitches at the correct times. I hit my spots pretty much,” Medeiros said. “I don’t try to overthink. I keep it very simple. I was using all my pitches for strikeouts, my fastball, slider, changeup and cutter. My cutter is sharper and doesn’t break as much as the slider, but has a bite to the end. My slider has a bigger break.
“Coming from the slot I throw, I don’t throw a curveball. I would have to finish more over the top and the scouts told me it doesn’t make sense for me to throw that. My changeup has gotten a lot better. I’ve gotten more confidence in it, and it’s improved a lot.”
Big price tag
The MLB draft will be in its third year of assigned pick values for the first 10 rounds. The 2013 draft’s value for the 24th overall pick was $1,893,500 and the 30th overall selection was $1,731,200.
With the 24th overall selection, the Oakland As’s drafted Bill McKinney, a prep outfielder from Texas, who signed for $1.8 million. The Texas Rangers used the 30th overall pick on Travis Demeritte, a prep shortstop from Georgia, who signed for $1.9 million.
Medeiros, who has a 3.6 grade-point average, would major in kinesiology if he lands at Pepperdine, where 2012 Konawaena graduate Kolten Yamaguchi is the catcher. The two were teammates on the 2011 Hilo All-Star Senior League World Series championship team, coached by Kaha Wong.
A secondary major in business could also fit Medeiros, who spoke with a negotiator’s frame of mind when asked what direction he was leaning.
“Right now, I’m open to both, college or pro,” he said. “I have no set round or money figure as of now.
“I really like the campus. It’s close to Malibu and the environment is just like Hawaii. The first time I talked to the coach (Steve Rodriguez) I know I’ll be well taken care of. And the academics are good there.”
Medeiros will have Dave Matranga as an advisor. Matranga was also an advisor to Kolten Wong (2011 first-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals) and his brother Kean Wong (2013 fourth-round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays).
Most of the time, the websites get their projected first-round picks right on the nose not only because all the top prep prospects are at showcases, but also well-connected writers are fed information from scouts, teams and sources.
But beyond the websites and their glowing reports, the most significant clue that Medeiros is held in high regard is all the knocks on his door: 15 MLB teams have bought tickets to fly to Hilo and visit his family.
The Texas Rangers, who hold the 23rd pick in the 2014 MLB draft, sent their national cross-checker, the position right below the scouting director. Other teams flew over area supervisors or area scouts. The Big Island Interscholastic Federation season doesn’t start until March.
Medeiros didn’t throw for any of the teams; they had all scouted him at the showcases. He discovered it was more than a meet-and-greet. The MLB teams turned over rocks, getting to know his parents Robert and Kori Medeiros, and brother Korin Medeiros, also on a full-ride baseball scholarship at UH-Hilo.
“It was pretty cool meeting all the different scouts and hearing what they had to say about their organizations, and putting names to faces,” Medeiros said. “They said during the season they would bring their big-time guys. It’s really humbling having them come in, getting to know my family. It was a cool process.
“They were different. Some would come in and talk about their club and ask if I had any questions. Some had tests, like personality tests or psychological questionnaires. Some had DVDs to show me. Some talked about the draft and explained how the process works, and talked about their past experience.
“A lot of them were players, who played in the minors and some in the majors. Jim Blueberg was picked four spots before Curt Schilling in the second round. Josh Emmerick caught for Cliff Lee in the minors. All the teams had seen me in one of the four events They were strictly for visits. Some asked me about my injury.”
One goal met
Medeiros said he’s back to full health after a muscle strain in his elbow limited his innings during his junior season. He went 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in 11 2/3 innings in five games. He gave up seven hits, seven walks, hit seven batters and struck out 19.
Doctors told Medeiros he suffered the injury from overuse as a sophomore in 2012, when Waiakea won the school’s first Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state championship. His pitching coach Gerry Meyer also said Medeiros hurt his arm from a heavy innings log, and wants his student on an 80-pitch count, something for new Waiakea coach Jensen Sato to consider.
“My arm feels great. It’s 100 percent,” Medeiros said. “Every day I long toss or throw the ball in the bullpen. I lift weights and hit in the cage every other day. When it comes to night-time, I do arm exercises, small weights for my elbow and shoulder.
“I’m playing for Waiakea and I’ll be all right. We’re a really young team. I’m not worried about being overused. I have to do what’s right, stay safe and be healthy.”
In a June article on Medeiros’ performance at the PGN Showcase in Minnesota, Meyer said he would track his student’s pitch count at games and serve as a watchdog. Medeiros credited Meyer for his development and his parents for their support, and brother Korin for inspiration.
“My brother (a catcher at UHH) is always taking time to train with me and helping me with long toss or catching me in the bullpen,” Medeiros said. “He first started catching me since I was 10 years old. He’s caught every pitch as it has progressed. He’s been an inspiration with his work ethic for me to be like him.”
Medeiros said he never considered going to a junior college, where he could be drafted after his freshman and sophomore years. If still unsigned, he could transfer to a four-year school, like Pepperdine, UCLA or Hawaii, and be draft-eligible after his junior and senior seasons.
The drawback is the lesser competition at the Juco level. But getting a full-ride to a Division I school was a goal. It matched the bar set by Korin Medeiros, a 2012 Waiakea graduate.
“It’s good that me and him got full-rides,” Medeiros said. “I saved my parents money. It was a little competition, too. He got a full-ride and I wanted to get that, too. It happened and I met my goal.”