Courtney Hawkins is the second-youngest player in the Carolina League and the fifth-youngest overall in the three High-A leagues. So struggles would not be a surprise. But what Hawkins continues to do is more than struggle. It's abject failure.
The 13th overall pick in 2012 has a .721 OPS and a .320 wOBA in 259 plate appearances this season. Looking at that, one would think that Hawkins is holding his own against older and more experienced opposition. But going just beyond the superficial to the triple slash line - .190/.266/.455 - the reality begins to be obvious. A high slugging percentage is masking some serious struggles. And when one goes a little deeper and sees a 43.6% strikeout rate, the reality becomes even more pointed. Drilling into the outfielder's splits reveals even more flaws.
Prior to the beginning of his month-long DL stint on May 2 for a shoulder injury, the 19-year-old was striking out in basically half of his plate appearances. In June and (so far) in July, he's still striking out an absurd 41% of the time. Hawkins bats right-handed and he's atrocious against same-handed pitching. He's hitting far better in the Dash's power-friendly home park than on the road. I could go on detailing the red flags but you all have better things to do than read it.
Bottom line, Hawkins is not just in over his head, he's somehow managed to get below the sea floor. He has little to no pitch recognition and little to no concept of the strike zone. Throw him an ill-located fastball and he can hit it out. But throw him an off-speed pitch of basically any kind or quality and he's useless.
This is yet another instance in a long line of overly aggressive minor league assignments the White Sox have thrust upon ill-prepared position player prospects. I thought Jared Mitchell's treatment produced the worst possible results an unnecessarily pushed player could have but I underestimated the White Sox' resolve.
I don't know whether it's just a misguided philosophy or an ego that can't/won't admit mistakes or an inability to properly judge the abilities of hitters or a lack of coaching personnel to execute - or all four and more - but it's not working and never has. It's been a decade since the White Sox last produced a position player of any note. Yes, in the development of baseball players, a good process isn't necessarily going to produce a consistently very high success rate. But a decade of total failure is not the product of bad luck. It's bad process. And it needs to stop.
In lighter news, here's a good article and video about life in the minor leagues for the Birmingham Barons.
Tim Anderson, this year's top draft pick (who is six months younger than Hawkins), is hitting well for Kannapolis - .316/.389/.404 in 132 plate appearances. The currently-a-shortstop has a .444 BABIP so let's hope the White Sox don't get overly excited and send him to join Hawkins. He's showing good range at shortstop but the errors are piling up: 14 in 28 games.
Charlie Leesman: 10 GS, 55 IP, 54 H, 22 BB, 53 K. In the lefty's second go-around with Charlotte, he's kept his walk rate stable at 9.1% while upping the strikeouts to 22%. He's the only lefty left in the cupboard.