The United Cardinal Bloggers asked this month what was an obscure player from Cardinal history. It’s a loose definition of obscure as the story of George Frazier’s 77 innings pitched with the Cardinals isn’t a terribly interesting one. So obscure but not too obscure. I dug out my 2005 Baseball America Prospect guide to find a forgotten prospect from the pre-Luhnow era.
Failed prospects litter the annals of the Cardinals organization. That’s the nature of prospects (depending on how broad a definition you use): more will fail than succeed. The minor leagues aren’t in place to create stars so much as cull the weak. It’s the cut throat reality of the minors that, ultimately, the dream of professional baseball could be over at any moment. So finding a “forgotten” prospect isn’t exactly hard to do.
I like the career trajectory of Blake Hawksworth to drive all this home. Selected in the 28th round of the 2001 draft, Hawksworth got a big bonus as part of the now abolished draft and follow system for younger players. He had enough velocity to dream on touching the mid-90s with his fastball and a plus changeup as his primary offspeed offering.
Through his first couple years he performed well in the low minors showing good command and the ability to get the strikeout. Heading into 2005, he had 169 strikeouts against 46 walks through 173 innings. Then the injuries started.
Injuries have kept Hawksworth from getting on the fast track as St. Louis had hoped. He had surgery to clean up his shoulder last May, though doctors found no structural damage.
That’s from the 2005 Prospect Handbook in which Hawksworth had ascended to the #3 prospect in the Cardinals system after Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright. In 2006, Hawksworth would be mostly healthy but those injuries would return in 2008. Things looked bleak as Hawksworth fastball velocity deteriorated into the upper 80s. In 2009, he found his way into the Cardinals bullpen. His velocity came back and his fastball resided in the low 90s.
Two years later, after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hawksworth showed a much improved velocity (average fastball speed 95) and better command. The improvements earned him a secure spot in the Dodgers bullpen. While he now finds himself on the 60 day DL, the arc of Hawksworth’s career from big bonus baby to top prospect to injured has been to big league reliever is a reminder of the circuitous route that careers can take. It’s also a reminder that Hawksworth was once a top prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Just in case you’d forgotten.