The San Francisco Giants took an intriguing flier on reclamation project Courtney Hawkins, who was once one baseball’s top prospects.
The San Francisco Giants have not been shy this season about adding players who have been cast aside by other teams in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.
They were at it again on Monday.
The latest move didn’t come in the form of a waiver claim or a trade for an MLB player, though. It came in an under-the-radar signing of a former top prospect out of the independent Atlantic League.
So who is Courtney Hawkins?
As it says above, the Chicago White Sox selected him with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Carroll High School in Texas. His scouting report at Baseball America read as follows heading into the draft:
"“Though he can run his fastball into the low 90s, he definitely will make his living in the batter’s box. Hawkins is loaded with bat speed and uses his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame to generate exceptional leverage from the right side of the plate. He’ll need to tame his maximum-effort swing, stop sitting on fastballs and improve his pitch recognition. He’ll rack up some strikeouts, though they’ll be a worthwhile tradeoff for his home runs. More physical than most high school players, Hawkins also brings a plus arm and solid speed to the table. A center fielder in high school, he’ll likely wind up in right field as a pro. Scouts praise his instincts and makeup as well as his tools.”"
His pro career started off with a bang.
Hawkins hit .284/.324/.480 with 15 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and 11 steals in 59 games over three levels, reaching High-A before his 19th birthday.
That standout performance vaulted him up leaguewide prospect lists and he began the 2013 season as the No. 55 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America’s Top 100 list.
Unfortunately, his stock trended steadily downward from there.
Here’s a look at how the next four years played out, with his rank among White Sox prospects at the start of each year included in parenthesis:
- 2013 (1): 425 PA, .178/.249/.384, 19 HR, 37.6 K% at High-A
- 2014 (6): 515 PA, .249/.331/.450, 19 HR, 27.8 K% at High-A
- 2015 (9): 330 PA, .243/.300/.410, 9 HR, 30.3 K% at Double-A
- 2016 (12): 455 PA, .205/.262/.352, 12 HR, 30.1 K% at Double-A
He dropped off the team’s top 30 prospect list following the 2016 season and he was eventually released by the White Sox on April 18, 2018.
From there, he caught on with the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters where he hit .285/.342/.505 with 18 home runs, 72 RBI and 12 steals in 88 games.
That gained the attention of the Cincinnati Reds, who signed him on Aug. 11, and he hit .262 with a .664 OPS in 71 plate appearances with their High-A affiliate in his return to affiliated ball. He made it just 18 games into the 2019 season before he was released again, though.
Sure, the recent results inspire little reason for optimism.
However, that plus raw power that made him such an attractive draft prospect remains, and he’s still just 25 years old.
So why not?
Hawkins was assigned to Triple-A Sacramento, where he figures to see at least semi-regular playing time.
This is a no-risk move by the San Francisco Giants as they continue to search for value on the open market, and he just might surprise after building some confidence in the independent league last season.