"He was coming along with it, but I think we all decided that it would be better for him just to get through the winter healthy going into Spring Training," said White Sox director of player development Nick Capra on the reason for shutting down Hawkins during instructional league action. "He hits a base wrong out there and reaggravates it, and we are right back to square one."
Keon Barnum, the first baseman who is ranked 28th among the White Sox Top 30 Prospects, already had been taken out of AFL action by the team due to left knee surgery. The White Sox AFL contingent now includes Michalczewski, Jake Peter, Nick Delmonico and Adam Engel among the position players, with Brandon Brennan, Robinson Leyer, Peter Tago and J.B. Wendelken on the pitching side.
Hawkins, 21, was sidelined by thumb and foot issues during the 2015 season, as the team's top pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and 13th overall hit .243 with nine homers, 41 RBIs and 100 strikeouts over 300 at-bats for Double-A Birmingham. Barnum, 22, who was selected 48th overall in that same Draft, posted a .257 average with nine homers and 67 RBIs for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem this past season.
One of the development keys for both of these young players becomes as simple as just staying healthy.
"That's the biggest thing. I don't think either one of these guys have played a full season yet," said Capra of Hawkins and Barnum. "They have a world of potential there, and we have to get them healthy and keep them on the field and get them at-bats and see what they really can do.
"You look at [Hawkins] and look at what he's capable of doing. For example last spring, it was probably the best I've seen Courtney. A lot of it is just mechanical. Trusting what he's doing. He's in a real good spot, but he kind of wavers away from things at times. That's a lack of experience, and once he gets it, he has a chance to be a beast."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.