Kenny Williams is guilty of more head-scratchers than most major league GMs, but selecting Carroll High School outfielder Courtney Hawkins with the 13th overall pick certainly had justifiable merits. The White Sox certainly aren’t tools-averse, but they seem to prefer their tools to come from the college ranks, with guys like Jared Mitchell, Jacob Petricka and Keenyn Walker (well, at least he’s from Junior College) coming to mind. The last high schooler they took high was an extremely raw basketball convert in Trayce Thompson, who’s still trying to figure out how to get his strikeout rate to even mediocre levels.
Hawkins’ calling card, much like Thompson’s, is his incredible raw power to go along with his natural athleticism. In fact, watch him with a ridiculous standing back-flip here if you want to get a better idea of it. He also looks like a pretty solid pick, as he ranked 15th in Baseball America’s top 500 and by all accounts appears to be a “lock” to sign as a mid-round selection in the first round.
As I already mentioned, Hawkins is just about ready to sell-out everything for raw power, which can be extremely dangerous in terms of development. He’s also had some success as a pitcher (though it is not his major league calling card), so he hasn’t had all of his focus on hitting, which is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good, because there might be a bit more projection in him than the standard high school hitter (and they aren’t lacking for projection either); it’s bad because his profile (a swing and miss type) is going to need all of the plate appearances he can get to work on pitch recognition.
At 6’3, 210, you can dream on a guy like Hawkins. He has immense bat speed and has hit numerous moonshots in his time in high school. His swing is also maximum effort, so there will be plenty of strikeouts to come along with plenty of homers. Hawkins also comes with a plus arm and solid-average to potentially above-average speed. Scouts don’t believe he’ll be able to stick in center, so he’ll likely have to shift to right, which will put a bit more pressure on the development of other parts of his game.
Here’s a lengthy video from Bullpen Banter where you can get an idea of the swing I mentioned above.
Hawkins is not going to be the type to move quickly, but he’s not completely clueless at the plate, either. The problem he’s going to run into is pitch recognition, especially as he moves up the major league ladder. For that very reason Hawkins is the type that I think would be served best starting in short-season/extended spring training and potentially not making his debut in full-season until some point in 2013. His power does not serve him well if he cannot make contact on anything but fastballs, which he won’t see an awful lot of as he starts out against older competition.
There is tremendous upside here, though. Hawkins is a brick-house and has an MLB body. He could hit 30+ homers without a doubt, but he could also pull a Preston Wilson and strikeout a ton, too. It seems like that will always be a part of his game, so he’ll need to work on pitch recognition so that he can draw enough walks to make up for it. It’s one thing to swing through pitches because you’re swinging for the fences; it’s an entirely different thing to chase pitches out of the zone. I think you can live with the former for a guy with Hawkins’ power, but you have to be concerned with the latter with a player of Hawkins’ age.
From a pure value perspective, I think this is a fine selection for the White Sox. He’s got upside, he’s signable, and he was picked essentially where he was ranked. I don’t have a problem with risk, but I don’t necessarily love Hawkins’ risk profile, because he’s more all-or-nothing than potentially some other options. He probably won’t be good enough defensively to play CF, and he probably doesn’t have a good enough hit-tool to fall back on if his power potential regresses as he moves up the ranks. He’s not a one-tool type like Telvin Nash, but there’s an awful lot resting on his power carrying him through the minors. In fairness, with the scarcity of raw power of late it is a completely justifiable risk, just not one I’d be in favor of taking.
To me, Hawkins doesn’t compare favorably to the aforementioned Trayce Thompson, despite Thompson being a bit more raw. Unlike Hawkins, Thompson has the potential to stay in CF to go along with prolific raw power and even more prolific strikeout numbers. Courtney doesn’t have that fallback option, which gives me a bit of pause this high with this many college arms on the board that were highly regarded (like Wacha and Stroman). We’ll have to wait and see how well Hawkins controls the zone in his debut, of course, before drawing too many conclusions.