Joe Borchard and Brian Anderson. Say these two former top prospects’ names in the presence of any Chicago White Sox fan and they will cringe. Every major league organization has prospects who are considered busts over the years. Whenever Sox fans look back on recent memory, the promise and then eventual downfall of these two men comes to the forefront.
In large part to these two former players, White Sox fans are hesitant to back a prospect labeled as “can’t miss”. Another reason is that under former general manager Kenny “The Time is Now” Williams, there never was a bountiful crop of young talent after 2004.
Two years ago, the White Sox took Courtney Hawkins with their first-round selection. Many believed that the Sox got a steal with the 13th pick. Scouts raved about the sluggers raw athleticism, which was briefly on display when he performed back flips in the MLB Network studio right after being drafted. As the summer progressed, people began to describe Hawkins with those two magic words that could doom a prospect forever, “can’t miss”.
The consensus on Hawkins was that, like most sluggers in the organization from top to bottom, he possessed jaw dropping power but lacked plate discipline. With the exception of a select few, the half year of professional ball right after signing a rookie contract is seen as a tryout period. These games provide a baseline for where the team can start their development of the player. In 2012 Hawkins hit .284 with a .324 OBP and eight homers in 59 games. The So’x goal moving forward into 2013 was to pencil Hawkins in to the everyday lineup at Class A Winston-Salem. Once teams had a chance to prepare for him, pitchers would exploit his aggressiveness at the plate. His lack of development of discipline in the batter’s box resulted in 160 strikeouts in 103 games and a batting average of .178. People would peak at the numbers and not help from thinking about Borchard and Anderson. Unlike those two underachievers, Hawkins will not fall into the same category.
While this will be second full season in the minors, Hawkins is only 20 years old. Expectations placed on him at such a young age factored into added pressure that effected his performance on the field. Because of Mike Trout, the 25th pick in the 2009 draft, people expect any first-round selection to show immediate results once they hit the ground running. Every prospect progresses at his own pace. Concern should only begin to creep in when unproductive years of failing to adjust begin to pile up. While 2013 was a less than flattering season for Hawkins, 2014 has been a change of pace so far.
In 17 games entering Monday’s action, Hawkins is hitting a whopping .313 and has an OBP of .357 with five homers and 19 RBIs. Though his 20 strikeouts so far may draw concern, Hawkins is displaying a greater presence at the plate. According to reports he is tearing the cover off the ball to all fields, which he did not do much of in the past. Instead of just looking to smash the ball over the fence on every pitch, Hawkins has taken the conservative approach of taking pitches that he used to swing at. It is only class A pitching, but Hawkins has displayed that he can adjust to what pitchers throw his way.
It is way too early to make judgment on what Hawkins will be as a major league player. White Sox fans have learned from past failures that a prospect can never be labeled legit until they have proven time and again that they belong. It is worth keeping note throughout the season if Hawkins progresses and if he begins to climb the organizational latter. Fans should not start printing White Sox uniforms with Hawkins across the back if he succeeds and should not place him with Anderson and Borchard if he fails. All this season is is another chance to see what one of the faces of the new wave of rebuilding has to offer. With nonstop commotion on the North Side of town centering around prospects who will make an impact, it is nice for Sox fans to know that they might have a guy of their own. However, Sox fans are smart enough to know that minor league performance means nothing when it comes to playing in The Show.