Courtney Hawkins, the White Sox strikeout-prone 2012 first-round pick, was both a raw power prospect coming out of high school and such a multi-layered disaster in 2013 that a disciplined approach was to just forget about him. Even though he's young--still just 21--and his struggles came after a hyper-aggressive over-promotion to High-A, the hurdles Hawkins had to clear were too daunting and numerous to start contemplating his major league role anytime soon. It's probably not something we will ever have to do, so why get an early start?
So, now that Hawkins has yammed on a few balls in Arizona this month, does that change? Or more, do we recalibrate the feelings of hopelessness around him? To clarify, the excitement is due to a pretty extreme hot streak where he's collected 13 hits in 31 at-bats, six of which have gone for extra bases, four of which have left the yard very emphatically, two of those left the premises on Saturday against a pair of Royals lefties.
Hawkins is, and no matter what he turns out to be, and always will remain a mistake hitter. If we hear about him doing anything, it will probably be about him crushing a mistake. Spring baseball is a time where he can find plenty of them, some intentional. What he's free from is the type of individual matchup scrutiny to expose his still very long swing, or exploit what he particularly struggles to recognize, and yet he's still struck out in a quarter of his at-bats. Courtney's in-game power is very real and it's exciting to see it play against MLB-ish pitching (Franklin Morales is scrapping for an MLB spot these days and rookie sensation Brandon Finnegan just got sent down), but his fundamental challenge to make contact remains.
Perhaps as valuable as anything was the testimonial from Robin Ventura, who tends to stay vague unless uniquely motivated. Ventura said Hawkins had shown more improvement than anyone else in the camp, and specifically credited him with improving his two-strike approach. With his swing, there are going to be strikeouts in Hawkins' game, so he might as well stop fearing them.
I can say that I am actually excited to monitor Hawkins at what will almost undoubtedly be Double-A, knowing the Sox, and see if this Spring is actually the precursor to a transformation. Which is already a departure from the status quo of ignoring him.
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