Throughout the minor league season, the prospect staff here at Fake Teams will look at a number of prospects for your fantasy and dynasty teams. Some will be prospects that you'll see this year in the majors, while others are interesting targets in longer term formats. Up today is a prospect who has seen a drastic downgrade over the past year, White Sox' outfielder Courtney Hawkins.
Weight: 220 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: No
Protect After: 2016 Season
DOB: 11/12/1993 (Age 20 Season)
Hawkins was drafted with the #13 overall pick of the 2012 draft by the White Sox, and quickly became known for doing a backflip at the draft broadcast that night. After signing for a bonus of nearly $2.5 million, he was sent to the White Sox' short-season affiliate in the Appalachian League. In just 38 games, he hit three home runs, stole eight bases, and struck out 37 times in 147 at bats.
He was promoted to full-season ball in early August, and hit .308/.352/.631 with four home runs and three stolen bases across just 16 games. Another promotion in the last week of the season to High-A for a playoff run led Hawkins to finish the season with a total of eight home runs and 11 stolen bases over 59 games.
The White Sox gave Hawkins an aggressive assignment for a high school draftee for his first full season, leaving him at High-A Winston-Salem. Unfortunately, Hawkins did not respond to the level in the way that the organization had hoped. He missed time due to a shoulder injury, but the book was out on him early in the season, and he finished the year with a .178/.249/.384 slash line, 19 home runs, and 160 strikeouts in 383 at bats. The team returned him to Winston-Salem for this season, and has been hitting much better so far this year. In 23 games, he is hitting .289/.358/.602 with seven home runs and 27 runs batted in.
The Scouting Report
Hit (AVG): The biggest question marks surround the hit tool for Hawkins, as it will be the biggest determinant on whether the rest of his tools will play to a major league level. There are concerns about both the hit tool utility as well as his approach at the plate. He is extremely susceptible to pitchers with a specific plan, and specifically has issues with offspeed pitches. He has great bat speed, and early reports have shown an improved process this year, but the key remains how much he can keep his strikeouts under control. He's never going to hit for a high average, but he doesn't need to hit above .240 or .250 to provide good fantasy value.
Power (HR, RBI): Hawkins' power is his calling card, grading out as plus to potentially plus-plus overall. He has the potential to hit 25-30 home runs, but that is dependent entirely upon his ability to make at least a solid amount of contact. He seems a lot more likely to top out around 18-20 home runs given those contact concerns, and could potentially fall below that number some years if he struggles more.
Speed (R, SB): There seem to be mixed reports on his speed, as he was thought to have the potential to provide 20 stolen base seasons out of the draft. It sounds more and more like he may not provide as much value with his legs as was originally thought, and there are concerns about what happens as he continues to grow. He is very athletic though, so it would not surprise me if he does approach that 20 steal total for at least a few seasons.
Defense: Hawkins has played center field primarily so far, but reports on his defense point to a corner outfield slot long term, with right field the most likely given how strong his arm is.
When Could He Arrive?
If it comes together at the plate, he could be in Chicago by the end of 2016. (That remains a gigantic IF.)
What Can He Do When He Gets There?
Well, that is the million dollar question. If he can manage to keep his strikeout rate even below 30%, he could potentially provide 25+ home runs with a .230-.240 batting average, 70+ runs and 70+ RBI. I can see seasons where he tops double digit stolen bases, with 10-15 the most likely outcome in top seasons.
Hawkins is about as close to the prototype for a boom-or-bust prospect as you may see for quite a while. Andrew Ball last year wrote that if everything works out, we could see a line of .283, 49 HR, 127 RBI, 96 R and 6 SB. More and more that dream looks like it may be completely impossible, as his approach at the plate continues to deter him from hitting for a high average and letting his tools play to their fullest potential. He's worth a flier in deeper dynasty formats, especially if the cost to acquire him is low. I do still think he can provide value (as evidenced by my ranking him in my own personal top 75 during the offseason), but with each new report that highlights his struggles against lower level pitching, it's going to be hard to keep him there. If you tend to be risk averse when it comes to prospects, he's probably one of the key players you're going to want to avoid, because it is entirely possible he never gets out of AA. I'm not ready to jump off the bandwagon yet, as I do think we see a few 25+ home run seasons, but I'm not nearly as strong in that belief as I once was.
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