Hawkins' Tools Make An Impression On White Sox

BURLINGTON, N.C.—Many baseball fans first became acquainted with Courtney Hawkins on June 4, 2012, the night of the baseball draft. Shortly after being selected by the White Sox 13th overall, Hawkins put on a show for viewers by effortlessly completing a backflip in a suit, tie, and dress shoes. The 18-year-old center fielder was one of a handful of draft hopefuls in attendance at MLB Network's Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J.

Scouts had long been enthralled by Hawkins' impressive athleticism and raw tools, however. He starred as a sophomore in the 2010 Texas 5-A state playoffs, launching a home run in to the upper deck at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas, and taking home MVP honors as a starting pitcher in the championship-clinching contest.

While he was a two-way weapon for Carroll High (Corpus Christi, Texas), the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Hawkins was drafted as a position player, where his athleticism and power potential will be utilized on a day-to-day basis. After signing with Chicago for the slot amount of $2.475 million just two weeks after the draft, Hawkins has been getting accustomed to professional baseball as a member of Rookie-level Bristol of the Appalachian League.

"I came to play baseball, and I didn't want to wait around at home and work out," Hawkins said of his decision to sign quickly. "I'd rather be playing and getting better with more at-bats. I got it out the way and knocked it out so I could come out here and play ball every day."

Still, like countless other high-ceiling, high school draftees, Hawkins will encounter many obstacles along the way.

In a recent series against Burlington (game log), Hawkins did not flash the solid speed that scouts had come accustomed to when watching him play, routinely clocking 4.5-second home-to-first times. However, one scout in attendance was not too concerned, saying, "He didn't run well, but I know that he can run better than that."

The rigors of professional baseball can wear down any young player unfamiliar with playing every day. Since joining Bristol on June 21, Hawkins had played in 18 straight games and admitted that it took some getting used to. He went 17-for-72 (.236) with a homer and three doubles.

"At first it was a bit of an adjustment," Hawkins said. "I was a little sore, but I'm good now. I'm happy to be here and playing every day."

Hawkins also must be able to make adjustments on the fly. As a first-round pick, he's one of only a handful of players in the Appy League with such high visibility, meaning that opposing pitchers have felt it necessary to utilize their entire repertoire.

In the opening game of Bristol's three-game series at Burlington, Hawkins saw a steady diet of offspeed pitches from the Royals' Patrick Conroy, Jossiel Martinez and Brian Edelen. He struggled to get going, going 0-for-4.

"At first I was thinking I would see a lot more fastballs, but I was wrong on that," Hawkins said. "There is a lot better pitching here in pro ball. You have to be able to lay off the bad stuff, so it's just an adjustment that I'm going to have to get used to."

However, he responded the next night, going 2-for-5. After Jake Junis struck out Hawkins on three straight fastballs in his first at-bat, the righthanded-hitting Hawkins jumped on the first pitch of his second at-bat and drove an 89 mph fastball on the outer half into the right-center field gap for a two-run double. Later in the game, Hawkins showed the ability to handle the breaking ball, sharply lining a 2-2 slider from Burlington righthander Freddy Rodriguez back up the middle for a single.

"Yesterday I got pitched backwards, but I came out here today ready to go and I was able to put two hits together," Hawkins said of his bounceback effort.

On the other hand, Hawkins also struck out twice in the contest and had whiffed 21 times in 18 games for Bristol, compared with three walks. But if he continues to mature and adjust to the competition and lifestyle of pro ball, Hawkins appears primed to make an impact for a farm system in dire need of a toolsy, high-ceiling position player.

"He's 18 years old and has only played in (18) professional games, but he has held his own," one scout said. "He generates plus bat speed, and you don't walk away from that body. While he may have to move out from center field down the road, he has the arm strength and the power potential to warrant a corner outfield spot. He has everything that you look for in a guy."