The White Sox were, by most accounts, expected to take a college player -- likely a pitcher -- with the No. 13 pick in Monday's edition of the MLB Draft. They did just that two years ago, and that player wound up throwing a complete game on Sunday against Seattle.
It had been 11 years since the White Sox last selected a high school player with their first draft pick, although Kris Honel never panned out. The last high school position player the Sox took was catcher Mark Johnson all the way back in 1994. Safe to say, few had the White Sox picking Courtney Hawkins at No. 13.
But White Sox scouting director Doug Laumann wanted it that way. He said the White Sox had been interested in Hawkins for a while, and the interest was mutual. Hawkins played in last year's Double-Duty Classic at U.S. Cellular Field and knew some members of the organization prior to being announced as the team's pick.
"Oh, man, it's amazing," Hawkins said of being tabbed by the White Sox. "Coming out here to New York, getting invited for the first-round player draft, being called by the White Sox after playing there, being there, meeting all the personnel before, it's amazing, and knowing that you're one of the best 13 in the country, it feels pretty good."
Hawkins is incredibly athletic -- as he showed with his somewhat-infamous backflip on the MLB Network draft set -- and, like Chris Sale two years ago, was expected to be selected a little higher than he was. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein called Hawkins' drop "mysterious," which sounds an awful lot like Sale's odd tumble in 2010.
Sale, of course, came up and helped the White Sox in 2010, serving as a lights-out reliever. Still a teenager, Hawkins won't follow that path. In fact, by the time Hawkins may be ready for the majors, Sale will be an established veteran -- or, if Hawkins' development takes a little longer, ready to hit free agency.
While the Sox farm system is widely regarded as being among the worst in baseball, the organization does have the luxury of waiting for Hawkins to develop thanks to a decent crop of young outfielders.
Jared Mitchell has come around with Double-A Birmingham, entering Tuesday with a .417 on-base percentage in 55 games. He's still at least a year away from the majors and has a major hurdle to climb in Triple-A all while working on cutting down his strikeouts, but the 2009 first-round pick has done everything in his power to restore faith in his potential.
Keenyn Walker, the Sox first pick in 2011, similarly needs to cut down on his strikeouts but has posted a fine .370 OBP with Single-A Kannapolis in his first full processional season. The news isn't as good for Trayce Thompson, a 2009 high school draftee, who has struggled in his first year with High-A Winston-Salem, hitting only six home runs with a .312 OBP in 52 games.
But with Hawkins and Keon Barnum -- who Laumann expects to remain at first base but may get a trial in left or right field at some point -- the Sox not only have depth in the outfield, they have talent. That talent doesn't always play out, as those who are quick to point out Joe Borchard and Brian Anderson will say.
The Sox still need organizational depth in the middle infield, and given the volatile nature of pitching prospects, there's no such thing as too many arms in a farm system. But most of all, the Sox just need good players developing in the minor leagues.
If all goes right, Hawkins will fill that need.