The White Sox have had nothing but good news from their 2012 first round draft pick Courtney Hawkins so far this year. While he grabbed some headlines for his back flip at the draft, Hawkins was described as “extremely high ceiling, but very raw.” Hawkins has elite power potential, and a cannon of an arm, able to dial it up to the mid-90s on the mound. Drafted out of high school, the hope with Hawkins was that his athleticism and tools would translate onto the diamond – after all, the overwhelming majority of prospects bust, and it is extremely difficult to convert athleticism to baseball skill.
It’s far too early to draw any significant conclusions, but Hawkins’ first crack at professional ball has been very successful. After holding his own for basically a high school kid in rookie league, posting a respectable .272/.314/.401 mark, Hawkins has turned it on at Kannapolis. Over his first 59 PAs in A ball, Hawkins is hitting .333/.371/.611. Also of note, while Hawkins more likely profiles to play an above average right field, he has been playing exclusively in center and has swiped a few bags.
There’s absolutely some swing-and-miss in Hawkins’ game, striking out in 23.3 and 22% of his plate appearances in Rookie and A Ball respectively, and he could stand to walk quite a bit more – his 4.4 and 5.1% BB rates are extremely low. However, White Sox fans should absolutely be excited about Hawkins’ start, as a player with his age and tools.
Keenyn Walker has also had a positive year, as another player who was high on tools and low on polish. Walker has hit .282/.394/.387 and .265/.368/.425 at A and A+ respectively, and what obviously stands out is the walk rate. Walker is 22 and a bit old for the levels, and his power is underwhelming, but he has stolen 53 bases across the two levels this season and he could have a career in the majors if he can continue to control the strike zone and can play solid defense in center field.
Carlos Sanchez, technically playing shortstop but in all likelihood more of a second baseman at the major league level, has had an excellent year so far, starting out in A+ and having been promoted to AAA early this week. Just 20-years old, Sanchez managed a .315/.368/.395 line in A+ and then ramping it up to a .370/.421/.462 line in AA. He is one of the youngest players in AAA, and it would be understandable if he struggles, but he clearly has a strong hit tool.
Whether he can be a viable major leaguer will depend on how well he develops patience when facing pitching that he can’t square up for a batting average in the mid .300s. Using stolen bases as a proxy for speed – which is rather inelegant, I admit – Sanchez has also managed 26 steals so far this year. The hit tool is clearly there, and his defense will likely hold up at second – it’s a question of to what degree can he improve his secondary skills. If he tattoos AAA as well and Gordon Beckham still can’t hit it may raise some interesting questions. Does Sanchez push for Beckham’s job next spring? Is a September call up in order? Time will tell.