The Chicago White Sox’s choice of high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins is a departure from their most recent drafting policy of taking the best college player available. That philosophy was a part of an overall approach that put need at the major league level above player development in the most conventional of ways.
It is not a coincidence that general manager Kenny Williams’ first year as the top baseball executive and the college-player draft mentality came hand-in-hand. That thought process has served the team really well in recent drafts with former No. 1 picks Gordon Beckham and Chris Sale now important pieces of the major league team after short minor-league tenures.
The Sox have not drafted a high school player since 2001 when they picked left-handed pitcher Kris Honel out of Providence Catholic High School (Illinois). Honel never made it to the major leagues -- in fact of all the White Sox’s No. 1 picks that came out of high school the only impact players have been Harold Baines (1977), Steve Trout (1976), Carlos May (1966) and Ron Karkovice (1982).
That list includes two outfielders, one catcher and one pitcher. This gives you an idea why many major league clubs do not want to roll the dice on developing a player out of high school, due to the four- to six-year process .
One driving force for the White Sox’s change of philosophy is the new draft language in the CBA. The new rules put limits on how much money the clubs can spend for the first time since the draft was instituted in 1965. If teams go over their slotted allotments they are subject to tariffs up to 100 percent on a dollar and loss of future high draft picks.
For a team like the White Sox, who have spent the least amount of money in the draft over the last three years, (under 10 million total), this was the right time to build through their farm system rather than trying to retool every season with new players.
Hawkins’ makeup and raw power remind some of Frank Thomas, the greatest hitter in franchise history. One can only hope that Hawkins’ maturation is as quick as the Big Hurt, who was drafted in June of 1989 and was in the major leagues by July of 1990.