During the scouting and development panel at SoxFest on Saturday, farm director Nick Capra and assistant general manager Buddy Bell offered a pretty candid assessment at Courtney Hawkins' dismal season at Winston-Salem.
Bell said he was comfortable with the initial assignment, and while they considered sending him down when his struggles became apparent, Bell said that "A-ball is A-ball," and Hawkins was fighting a two-front war either way.
Capra got into his mechanical problems, saying, "Last year, he just wasn't in a good position to hit. He was racing. I mean, he was swinging at the ball before it left the pitcher's hand."
But the batter's box wasn't the only place Hawkins got ahead of himself, Capra said.
"Somebody asked him when his parents were coming to town," Capra continued. "He said, 'Oh, my parents are going to meet me in Birmingham.' This is April, and this kid thinks he's in Birmingham already."
Bell backed Capra's opinion.
"When you have a kid like Courtney Hawkins, I think it makes more sense to sort of humble him a little bit, and really get him to understand that this isn't easy. This is a very, very hard game to play, at the kind of level that he's expected to play."
That explains the difference between leaving an overmatched Hawkins to fend for himself with the Dash, versus sending an overmatched Jared Mitchell to the Arizona Fall League in 2010 after he missed the entire minor-league season with an ankle injury. They each met a similar end, but in Mitchell's case, he just wasn't physically ready to withstand an aggressive assignment, and Bell has admitted it was a mistake. With Hawkins, they sound pretty convinced they had to break him down to build him back up.
Winston-Salem did the trick -- not just because it's a notch tougher than Kannapolis, but it's a smaller league with better books developed on hitters. It didn't take long for pitchers to realize he jumped at everything.
After striking out in 38 percent of his plate appearances at Winston-Salem, the hope is that he isn't just plain broken. Capra said the early signs for 2014 are encouraging, because "he put on a show" at Todd Steverson's minicamp.
"His direction was better, his swing path was better, balance was tremendous," Capra said. "Hopefully he's in a good spot and we can eventually get him to Birmingham so his parents can see him over the summer."
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Adam Eaton drew multiple comparisons to Aaron Rowand due to his undersized nature and his self-proclaimed willingness to sacrifice body. He's also a chatty guy, which brings to mind another White Sox center fielder of yore, and one the White Sox didn't care to have around.
I don't think he's as big of a goofball as Nick Swisher, and the clubhouse shouldn't be as stolid as it was five years ago, but it wouldn't surprise me if there's a documented adjustment period required to balance Eaton's production against his words per minute.
The other Arizona import, Matt Davidson, laid some groundwork for his White Sox career with his new hitting coach during the minicamp. Steverson says there are no grand designs on altering his approach, but they do have a first order of business: Try not to pull everything.
(Based on the way people talked about those three days in Arizona, Todd Steverson's Minicamp could be the stuff of legends ... or the stuff of memes.)
This interview with Micah Johnson details some of the information he shared at SoxFest -- his recovery from his reinjured elbow and his hobbies on the side (including piano and painting). He notes here that he dumped the Cubs at his favorite team, but he said on the prospects panel that he still roots for the Pacers.
It becomes evident why the White Sox want him to do well (to the extent that they invited him to SoxFest well ahead of schedule, anyway). Like Chris Sale, he's a young guy who manages to give interviews with some depth without getting ahead of himself.
Keith Law released his 2014 list of farm systems, and he ranks the White Sox 27th with the arrow pointing up.
The ranking doesn't reflect it yet, but this system is headed in the right direction thanks to better drafts, including a few surprises from later-round picks. I did not include Cuban defector Jose Abreu in any rankings, as he's 27 years old, but the Sox would be higher if he counted in their favor.
While the White Sox used "Recharged & Remade" for SoxFest seminars, it doesn't sound like the Sox are taking that into the regular season. In fact, Brooks Boyer doesn't exactly know what will be the strongest pull -- the youth movement, Paul Konerko's last season, or Frank Thomas heading to Cooperstown.