White Sox

Hawkins adds athleticism, talent but has room to improve

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Hawkins adds athleticism, talent but has room to improve

Moments after making the 13th overall pick in Mondays opening round of the first-year player draft, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams had good reason to hold his breath as his first pick, Courtney Hawkins, back-flipped through the air in an Ozzie Smith-like fashion. Needless to say, Williams deemed it the final backflip performance we will be seeing from the prospect now that he is White Sox property.

In keeping with past White Sox history, they selected a speedy outfield prospect with power potential which sounds familiar when you consider past draftees, Jared Mitchell, Brian Anderson and Joe Borchard who all possessed similar credentials when they were selected by the South Siders.

Hawkins attended Carroll High School in the baseball factory town of Corpus Christi, Texas, and his selection marks the first time the Sox have drafted a high school player since Providence Catholic pitching prospect Kris Honel was selected in 2001.

Hawkins hit .412 with 11 home runs, 38 RBIs, 53 runs, 17 stolen bases, and a .580 OBP. He also proved to be very effective on the mound, topping out at speeds as high as 93 mph and recording an 0.92 ERA. In fact, Hawkins pitched a complete game one hitter on Thursday to advance his team in the state playoffs. He proceeded to go 3-4 on Friday, leading his team to the state semis. This was all reason enough for Hawkins to be named the Gatorade Texas High School Baseball Player of the Year.

Although Hawkins has seen success on the mound, he's projected to work his way through the system as an outfielder, primarily in right. His powerful arm and superb speed make him a true defensive threat.

Along with his defensive ability, Hawkins has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields throughout his high school career. He possesses a large amount of raw power and is about as strong as they come at the high school level. Hawkins already has the build of an MLB player and has yet to finish developing.

The long and short of it is Hawkins is a Grade-A raw athlete.

Along with his big bat and strong arm do come some drawbacks, as Hawkins has a free-swinging approach at the plate that may have worked at the high school level but could hinder him in his professional career. Scouts say he needs to develop the ability to identify pitches better therefore slowing down his overly aggressive mentality at the plate.

Also, Hawkins appears to have a hyper-active upper body when waiting for the pitch. It is likely that Sox hitting coaches will try and slow down his shoulder and hand coil during his pre-pitch batting routine. MLB.com ranked Hawkins the No. 12 prospect in the draft and had him being drafted as high as ninth to the Miami Marlins, but his over-eagerness in his plate approach may have scared some scouts away, dropping him down to the White Sox at No. 13.

Hawkins also possesses good character traits that attracted not only the White Sox but many other teams across baseball. He's an A- to B student in the classroom and is an active member of his community. He's also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and spends a large portion of his time giving back to his community and engaging in numerous charitable endeavors.

Hawkins is a high risk, high reward-type athlete and it will be interesting to see how the White Sox organization goes about grooming his talent. If he does indeed reach his potential, he could be the impact bat the Sox are looking for as they plan their future.

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Joe Musso contributed to this article.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.