If you have listened carefully over the last three weeks, one name keeps popping up in the conversation, RHP Blake Hawksworth.
Friday the St. Louis Cardinals optioned Hawksworth to Triple-A Memphis, so the Scouts will have to get out of the air-condition comfort of the press box and make the trek to the back fields of Roger Dean Stadium if they want to take a look at the Cardinals top pitching prospect.
After two injury-plagued seasons Hawksworth finally stayed healthy for a year, going a combined 11-4 with a 2.92 ERA between Palm Beach and Springfield in 2006. He made 27 starts, allowing only 147 hits, striking out 121 and walking 50 in 163.1 innings, good enough to be added to the Cardinals 40-man roster and invited to spring training with the big club.
This spring Hawksworth pitched a total of six innings with the Cardinals in Grapefruit League action, posting a record of 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA. He allowed two earned runs, walked two and struck out two, before being optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
The Scouts have noticed that Hawksworth's fastball at 88-92 isn't as fast as it used to be, but I'm expecting him to get a little stronger this season and it is likely he'll be able to keep his fastball in the low 90s range throughout the year.
Hawksworth changeup is recognized as the best in the organization and then you throw in a decent curve ball and that makes him a legit top Major League prospect.
The Cardinals trying to cope with the injuries to outfielders Jim Edmonds, Juan Encarnacion and the slow starts of outfielders So Taguchi, Preston Wilson and Miguel Negron, may be forced to make a deal for an everyday outfielder soon, if it comes to that, you can be sure the other clubs based on their scouting reports, are going to be interested in getting Blake Hawksworth in return, as part of any deal.