A look at Courtney Hawkins’ hot start

Courtney Hawkins leads the Carolina League in homers and RBIs (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Courtney Hawkins leads the Carolina League in homers and RBIs (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

The 2014 season is still very young, but Courtney Hawkins looks like a different player than the one who struggled a year ago here in the Carolina League.

The 20-year-old is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with all three of the Dash’s home runs and 11 of Winston-Salem’s 22 RBIs. He is the only Dash hitter with a hit in each of the club’s first five games, and the Corpus Christi, Texas, native is currently riding a four-game RBI streak.

In all of Minor League Baseball, Hawkins is near the top in both home runs and RBIs:

HOME RUNS:

1. Gwinnett’s Ernesto Mejia – 5
2. Lehigh Valley’s Cameron Rupp – 4
3. Courtney Hawkins – 3 (tied with seven others)

RBIs:

1. Bakersfield’s Marquez Smith – 13
T-2. Courtney Hawkins – 11 (tied with two others)

Hawkins’ stance and swing was consistently tweaked throughout the 2013 season, when he did club 19 home runs. However, in the middle of Spring Training, the White Sox altered it even more. Since then, Hawkins’ approach is more compact. He bends his knees a bit more and holds his wrists closer to his body. The results have been very encouraging through five games.

The former first round pick is also displaying much stronger plate discipline. He does have seven strikeouts in 19 at-bats, but Hawkins has done a much better job laying off breaking balls and working counts. All power hitters have their fair share of strikeouts, but it’s what they do when putting the ball in play that is truly important.

Last season, Hawkins started out in the three-hole before dropping down to the five spot. He received that three spot again to start this season, and it does not look like he will relinquish it soon.

- Brian

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