"After playing eight years in the minors, I’m not dumb enough to have a preference," Blake Hawksworth told the Associated Press last week. "I just want to be on the team."
Most of what I knew about Blake Hawksworth on November 30 was that he wasn't Ryan Theriot, which was fine by me, as the second baseman's short tenure as a Dodger didn't impress. With the Dodgers' signing of Juan Uribe, Theriot was a non-tender candidate, so that the Dodgers got anything of value in return for Theriot was a plus. But just how much value does Hawksworth bring to the Dodgers?
Cardinals Prospect Rank
|Source: Baseball America|
Hawksworth was the Cardinals' top prospect, as rated by Baseball America, in 2004. That year he was rated ahead of fellow redbird prospects Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, and was rated by BA as the 47th-best prospect in baseball. Hawksworth's calling card was an amazing changeup backed up by a low-to-mid 90s fastball. However, bone spurs in his right ankle and a partially torn right labrum limited him to 25 1/3 total innings in 2004-2005. Hawksworth had a run of Elbertian length in Baseball America's top 30 Cards' prospect lists, making six straight appearances from 2003-2008.
Health returned for Hawksworth from 2006-2008, but his fastball didn't. He struck out 8.68 batters per nine innings from 2002-2005, but over the next four years it fell to 6.92 punchouts per nine in the minors. Hawksworth was eventually called up in June 2009 and pitched in relief for the Cardinals the rest of the year.
In the major leagues, for mostly about a season and a half, Hawksworth has struck out 5.59 batters per nine, and has walked 3.45 batters per nine innings. He gave up 1.5 home runs per nine innings in 2010, after allowing just 0.5 homers per nine in 2009. However, his xFIP has been similar in both years (4.59 in 2009; 4.39 in 2010).
I asked Dan Moore of the SB Nation Cardinals' blog Viva El Birdos about Hawksworth, and Moore said:
When he ended up in the Cardinals' bullpen, almost on accident, he suddenly got his fastball back—he'll sit at 92 or 93 now and top out around 96 on occasion. He's got the change-up that remains intermittently impressive, and a curveball that... well, you don't want to see the curveball. In short relief in 2009 he found (possibly unrepeatable) success throwing the new fastball almost exclusively; when the Cardinals stretched him out in 2010 he went back to his off-speed pitches.
Those reports matched what manager Don Mattingly saw in Hawksworth in the first week of spring training, per the Associated Press:
“We got the reports out of the minor leagues that this guys is throwing 90-91 with a good changeup. But he was like 95-96 out of the pen and with a filthy change-up. We think he’s going to be a solid part of that bullpen depth.”
I've always liked Hawksworth, but he got plastered last year as the Cardinals' swing-man. He's a guy who looks like he should be less hittable than he is; if he's a replacement-level pitcher, I'd rather have him than the average replacement-level pitcher, just because the pieces are still enticing.
Hawksworth was hit in the face by a line drive at Wrigley Field last September 25, which ended his 2010 season roughly a week early. The liner was off the bat of the Cubs' Sam Fuld, who in 2009 hit his face against the left field bullpen gate at Dodger Stadium while making a sweet catch.
Hawksworth was a teammate at Eastlake High School in Sammamish, Washington, of pitcher Andy Sisco, who signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees this winter.
Hawksworth has one year, 108 days of MLB service time, and is still under team control. He made $402,000 last year when the major league minimum was $400,000; the minimum increased to $414,000 this year, so expect Hawksworth's 2011 salary to adjust accordingly. Hawksworth is also out of options, meaning he can't be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers.
|2011 Projections - Age 28 Season|
I expect Hawksworth to land the role of long man in the bullpen out of spring training. He has experience both starting and relieving; in addition to his eight starts last year, 14 of his 37 relief appearances were longer than one inning. Hawksworth doesn't seem to care when he pitches, as long as it's in the majors, per the Associated Press:
“In the experience I’ve had, when given the ball you take it. I’m not worried if it’s the sixth or whenever,” Hawksworth said. “I know I’m versatile in that role. If Padilla goes three or four innings one day and picks another guy up, I’m able to come in and pick him up. I think that helps.”
My guess for Hawksworth's production in 2011 is a 4.47 ERA and 1.338 WHIP in 46 1/3 innings, with 34 strikeouts.
What is your prediction? Be sure to guess Hawksworth's ERA and number of innings pitched for the Dodgers, plus anything else you would like to project.