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Courtney Hawkins and the lessons learned

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With any luck, the former first-rounder’s release marks the end of the White Sox accelerating prospects through their system

Chicago White Sox Photo Day Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

With the good news that Eloy Jimenez was being activated from the DL to start his season in Birmingham, the White Sox also released 2012 first round pick Courtney Hawkins to make room.

When the Sox selected Hawkins with the 13th pick of the 2012 draft, he wowed the TV audience with a back flip. Almost immediately, he started to make an impact in the White Sox minor league system, making stops in Bristol and Kannapolis before ending the season in Winston-Salem.

We know the story since then: Hawkins spent two seasons at Winston-Salem, before starting his fourth in Birmingham this season. Injuries also ate up valuable reps the past four seasons.

Hawkins wasn’t the only position playing making moves up through the system rapidly back in 2012 though. Trayce Thompson and Yolmer Sanchez both rocketed through the system as well.

Sanchez started the 2012 season at Winston-Salem — and ended it in Charlotte. In the offseason, there was even talk about him being in contention for the third base job in the majors the following spring. With the arrivals of Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie, we didn’t get to see the result of that third base battle.

Sanchez, meanwhile, never played another inning of baseball below Charlotte, even though he was still 20 when he started the 2013 season. In total, Sanchez spent parts of five seasons at Charlotte.

Thompson, who coincidentally just today was reacquired by the White Sox, made the same stops that Sanchez did in 2012. While Sanchez was seen as potentially hitter-ish (.315/.374/.395 at Winston-Salem), there were more questions surrounding Trayce.

Thompson’s 144 strikeouts at Winston-Salem weren’t a great sign. Unlike Sanchez, Thompson started the 2013 season at Birmingham. Like it had with White Sox prospects before him, the pitcher-friendly confines of Birmingham proved much more difficult to hit in over a full season of play.

The outfielder got a retry at Birmingham the next season, with slightly better results (107 wRC+ in 2013 vs. 108 in 2014), but still no Charlotte promotion. Before the 2015 season, Thompson was added to the 40-man roster. The season ended with some significant playing time with the White Sox, before Thompson was traded to the Dodgers as part of the Todd Frazier deal.

Although it seems Sanchez is starting to show the promise he once did, it’s hard to say that the rapid push through the system didn’t hurt his development. While the Sox haven’t been as bad with pushing position players through the system, so I hope the subsequent fallout taught them something.