The first full season of pro baseball has been a hodgepodge of peaks and valleys for Courtney Hawkins of the Winston-Salem Dash. Even though he’s only 13 months removed from high school, much is expected of the 19-year old centerfielder.
“A work in progression, that’s what I am,” said Hawkins, who is the consensus choice among baseball insiders as the top prospect in the Chicago White Sox farm system. “Being consistent is what it all comes down to. My main focus is to relax, play ball and let the game come to me.”
Like all newcomers to the pro level, Hawkins has had his roller coaster moments. On the plus side, he ranks among the hitting leaders in the Carolina League with 15 home runs (tied for third) and 41 RBIs (tied for 10th). If Hawkins hadn’t been sidelined for 30 days with a shoulder injury in May, his homer and RBI totals would probably be higher.
On the flip side, his batting average is just .195 and he has struck out 91 times, second-most in the CL.
But things are looking up. Since returning to the lineup in June, Hawkins isn’t striking out as much and he’s showing more consistency in making contact at the plate. With continued improvement in those two areas, the batting average figures to climb.
“Most players Courtney’s age are in college or playing in the pro rookie league,” said Ryan Newman, Winston-Salem Dash manager. “At this point, it’s all about his development. He’s a 19-year old in a tough league, so he’s going to go through some down times. But he’s going to have some very good times, too. He’s a special hitter with quick hands who has lots of pop in his bat. As I watch him every day, I see the light bulb come on in different aspects of the game. Courtney’s power potential is off the charts.”
In his senior year as an All-American at Carroll High School (Corpus Christi, Tex.), Hawkins hit .412 and sported a 0.92 earned-run-average as a right-handed pitcher. He initially signed to play college ball at the University of Texas, but changed his mind after being selected as the White Sox No. 1 draft pick (13th overall) last year. After signing, he played with Bristol (Rookie Appalachian League), Kannapolis (low Class A South Atlantic League) and then came to Winston-Salem (upper Class A) toward end of last season. In five games with the Dash, Hawkins hit two doubles and one home run.
“The biggest difference between what’s happening for me now when compared to earlier this season is that I’m learning more and more about the game,” said Hawkins. “I’m starting to get things figured out. More than anything, what I’ve been able to do is to stop getting myself out. It takes more patience for me to wait for a good pitch to swing at rather than chasing after balls thrown out of the strike zone. I’m at the point now where I’m taking more walks than I did earlier in the season. The way I see it, every at-bat is another learning experience.”