Delmonico Overcomes Past Issues
BEST PLAYER: When the big league lineup bogged down in early June and shortstop Tim Anderson got the call from Triple-A Charlotte, general manager Rick Hahn said first baseman Nicky Delmonico was also on the major league radar.
That is a testament to 23-year-old Delmonico’s skill with the bat and his ability to overcome past personal issues during his time with the Orioles and Brewers. Baltimore made him a sixth-round pick in 2011 from Farragut High in Knoxville, Tenn.
"He was kind of confused and didn’t have a lot of direction,” farm director Nick Capra said. "I think he finally figured out he wanted to play baseball, and he’s really dedicated himself to doing that.”
Delmonico, whom Chicago signed in February 2015 following his release by the Brewers, hit .338/.397/.676 with 10 home runs in 38 games at Double-A Birmingham to earn a late-May promotion to Charlotte.
BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD: A 16th-round pick out of Hawaii in 2014, righthander Matt Cooper had some early success as a reliever in stops at Rookie-level Great Falls as a first-year pro and at low Class A Kannapolis and high Class A Winston-Salem last season.
This year, Cooper is flourishing as a starter at Winston-Salem.
Cooper went 4-5, 3.36 with 11.0 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings through 13 starts for the Dash, earning him a promotion to Birmingham in late June. He held Carolina League opponents to a .213 average.
"He’s a four-pitch pitcher who was really serviceable out of the bullpen last season,” Capra said. "We wanted to take a look at him as a starter, to see what he might be down the road, and he’s really done a fantastic job.”
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Injuries continue to take a toll on Birmingham left fielder Courtney Hawkins, the No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Limited to 78 games at Birmingham last season due to left foot and hand injuries, Hawkins is back with the Barons this year and was sidelined early with an oblique strain.
Through 43 games, the 22-year-old hit .248/.307/.410 with four home runs, 14 doubles and 28 RBIs.
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Hawkins has a big swing and crushes the ball when he connects. But he also swings and misses at a high rate. He struck out 56 times through 161 at-bats.