This post is the second in a series called “Farm Fodder” that will examine White Sox prospects who could make a significant impact in Chicago in the coming years.  Recent trades have significantly increased the amount of talent in the White Sox Organization, but there are also a few very talented players that remain from before the trades.  The next prospect we will examine is Courtney Hawkins.

Courtney Hawkins came to the White Sox with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Carroll High School in Corpus Christi, Texas.  As a 6’-2” 210 lb. high school player, Hawkins was well sought after for his power potential.  Projected as a mid-first round pick, Hawkins was essentially a typical high school draft choice meaning his ceiling was projected to be very high — think .280 average with 25-30 home runs — but his floor was very low.  It was clear watching Hawkins pre-draft that there were a lot of kinks to be ironed out with his swing – he would need to shorten it and quiet his very busy approach — but the White Sox obviously felt comfortable enough in Hawkins’ athleticism and ability to adjust to make him their first round selection.  So far in his career, Hawkins has had very limited success.  He struggled in his first full season at A+ Winston Salem in 2013 hitting .178 in 383 at bats, but hit 19 home runs.  He improved to a .249 average in 2014 at A+, also hitting 19 home runs.  However, he has taken steps backward the last couple of seasons at AA Birmingham.  Unfortunately, at this point, he is best known for his draft night on-air back flip when he was drafted ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnibzRW0Cjc ).

Making Hawkins poor performance so far perhaps even more disappointing is that there were many first round choices selected after Hawkins who are very highly regarded prospects including some who have begun successful careers in the Majors.  Included are Indians OF Tyler Naquin who was selected 15th overall, SP Lucas Giolito who was selected 16th overall and just acquired by the White Sox, 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, Dodgers SS Corey Seager who was selected 18th overall, Cardinals SP Michael Wacha who was selected 19th overall, Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman who was selected 22nd overall, Milwaukee Brewers CF prospect Lewis Brinson who was drafted 29th overall by the Rangers, and Cardinals OF Stephen Piscotty who was drafted 36th overall in the supplemental round.

While Hawkins has not performed like the White Sox have expected, there is still hope for him to improve and become a valuable piece for the White Sox.  He is still only 23 years old and has spent the last two years at AA Birmingham.  Recently the Sox have had success with another formerly highly regarded high school outfielder who also struggled in the minors, Trayce Thompson.  Thompson spent nearly two full seasons at AA Birmingham with mixed results, though his struggles were not as pronounced as Hawkins.  Thompson made some adjustments in 2015 and started the season in AAA where he improved significantly.  He made a spectacular big league debut with the Sox in 2015 and was one of the key pieces traded to the Dodgers in the 3-way trade for Todd Frazier.  With some adjustments, Courtney Hawkins has the potential to turn things around as well.  He needs to shorten up his swing and improve his plate discipline to consistently produce.  MLB Pipeline describes Hawkins:

“Hawkins bat speed and strength give him jaw-dropping raw power, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be polished enough as a hitter to make the most of it.  His right-handed swing can get out of control at times and his plate discipline regressed in 2015 after improving the year before.  He may never hit for a high average but could produce 25 or more homers per year if he can refine his approach”

Hawkins has impressed with flashes of raw power, but his overall poor hitting has made it difficult to translate his raw power to power that plays consistently in game situations; this is reflected in low power output.  Hawkins has hit just 21 home runs in 718 at bats at AA the past two seasons while hitting .243 in 2015 and .203 in 2016.  Hawkins has also been plagued by some injuries.  Despite his struggle to find consistency, Hawkins has impressed and made the most of his invitations to Major League Spring Training in 2015 and 2016, performing well in front of the White Sox Major League staff.  Video shows that while Hawkins has worked to modify the approach he used in high school, his swing is still long, largely the same, and mostly loopy and not direct to the ball.  He still has some moving parts to his load and gets out of sorts easily.  If he can work to shorten his swing and find a comfortable consistent load, he can still be a very dangerous hitter.

Courtney Hawkins is still very young, and there is reason to believe that if he can continue to adjust, he will find success.  Aaron Rowand, former White Sox CF and now minor league instructor for the White Sox, managed Hawkins this season in the Arizona Fall League.  While Hawkins did not perform well in the Arizona Fall League, Rowand raved about Hawkins talent.  In a radio interview after the Fall League had finished, Rowand discussed that Hawkins had been working very hard to make some adjustments to his swing and that he was very encouraged with the results.  Look for Hawkins to continue to refine his approach and swing, and let’s hope his adjustments translate to a big year at the plate in 2017.  Hawkins will likely begin the 2017 season at AAA Charlotte.  Much like with Trayce Thompson in 2015, a strong performance coupled with a lack of outfield depth at the Major League level could get Hawkins a look in Chicago in 2017.  However, that is a big if.  I estimate that in his current form, Hawkins most accurate player comparison is somewhere between former Sox outfielders Dayan Viciedo and Luis Terrero.  However, if he is able to adjust, Hawkins could have a career similar to that of long time Major League OF and fellow Sox draft pick Chris Young.  Even with improvement, Hawkins will likely have a lot of swing and miss in his game.  However, I hope that he is able to put together a consistent 2017 season with the bat and that we will see him in Chicago in the not too distant future.

Courtney Hawkins Video:

Courtney Hawkins home run, 2015 Spring Training:  http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/69972428/v51453183/kccws-hawkins-hits-mammoth-home-run-to-tie-ballgame

Courtney Hawkins walk-off home run, 2015 Spring Training:  http://m.mlb.com/cws/video/topic/26659992/v51501983/kccws-hawkins-walks-off-with-monster-home-run

Courtney Hawkins 2016 Arizona Fall League:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EC18GVT_gmY

 

Twitter:  @DaVroomer

Photo:  Dealfungo

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