Desperately Seeking Aaron: Twins Need Hicks to Produce
As the long, difficult Minnesota Twins’ season winds down in its final month, we’ll take a closer look at some of the new (and some not so new) faces added to the roster with our new Who’s That Guy? postings. Our final spotlight focuses on one of the most pivotal September call-ups: Aaron Hicks
More from Minnesota Twins News
- Minnesota Twins: Grading the Christian Vazquez Signing
- Minnesota Twins: Twins jump into Top 5 in first MLB Draft Lottery
- Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton wins 2022 Bob Feller Act of Valor Award
- Minnesota Twins: A Twins Homage to the Turkey of the Year Award
- Minnesota Twins: 5 Reasons for Fans to be Thankful for this Thanksgiving
Who’s That Guy?
- Name – Aaron Michael Hicks
- Age – 24
- Position – Centerfielder
- Career stats (146 Games) – 453 AB, .201 BA, 9 HR, 45 RBI
Experience – The 14th overall draft pick in 2008 draft as an 18 year old straight out of high school, Hicks was brought along slowly at first, staying in the Twins’ Single-A and High-A systems his first 4 years. In 2012, he was promoted to New Britain where he blossomed, showing a unique mix of power, speed, and agility; and by the end of the season big things were expected from the young centerfielder. In 2013 the Twins, faced with a shortage of outfielders due to the Denard Span and Ben Revere trades, made the controversial (some might say questionable) decision have Hicks eschew AAA Rochester and instead anoint him as their starting centerfielder. Almost immediately fans and media alike marveled at Hicks’s abilities in the field; showing off tremendous range, body-sacrificing catches, and a cannon-like arm and he was a mainstay on highlight packages around the country.
There was just one problem: Hicks could not hit major league pitching.
Now I, like many writers, enjoy using hyperbole and exaggeration to get a point across at times, but make no mistake, to say Hicks struggled at the plate would be one of the larger understatements of all time. After his first month in the big leagues, Hicks had a batting average of a measly .113, striking 26 times to only 8 hits. A switch hitter, he was equally poor from both sides of the plate. Originally slotted as the lineup’s lead-off batter, Hicks was in the 9 hole and batting a paltry .179 when he went down with a hamstring injury and placed on the disabled list on June 10th. Upon his return 3 weeks later, Hicks scuttled through the month of July. The team finally waved the white flag and sent the young outfielder down to Rochester for the remainder of the season on August 2nd.
What he’s done in 2014 – They say that every new year is a fresh start, and both Hicks and the Twins were ready to start anew and put his disastrous 2013 behind him. He was slated again to be the Twins starting centerfielder when the team broke camp at the end of March. Unfortunately for Hicks, it may have been a new season but his results were horridly similar to the prior year. Again Hicks struggled to hit from both sides of the plate, leading to the decision by the coaching staff to have him drop switch hitting and stick to right handed batting. The results did not improve, and again Hicks was sidelined with a shoulder injury in June. Upon being reactivated, he was demoted to Double-A New Britain with a batting average of .198, with 42 strikeouts and only 25 hits. Back where he originally blossomed, Hicks found his swing again in New Britain and was promoted up to Rochester where he continued to display the abilities that had once made him a prized prospect and top draft pick.
September results & expectations – Here is what I wrote regarding Hicks a few weeks ago, “Head coach Ron Gardenhire should have Hicks in the lineup every single day at any one of the three outfield positions and give him as many at bats as he can get against major league pitching. His defense has never been in question, but it’s time to see if he can be anything but a liability at the plate. It’s time to give Hicks a full audition for the 2015 season.” Gardy must be a loyal reader, as Hicks has played in 17 of 21 games, sitting only for a stiff back suffered last weekend, and a couple games for rest. Hicks has shown better discipline at the plate, striking out 10 times and batting .261 with a .651 OPS. While those numbers aren’t going to reserve him a spot in Cooperstown, they would be a dramatic improvement to what he has previously shown. Only 24, if Hicks can put his previous failures in the past and move upward and onward, he has a terrific chance to be a fixture in the Twins’ long term plans.
Looking forward to 2015 – Hicks is in a rare situation for a September call-up as the Twins need him to be successful as much as he does. Besides the abysmal pitching, the greatest failure for the 2014 Twins was their lack of a Plan B when Hicks failed to produce, leaving a gaping hole at centerfield. The Twins attempted to plug Sam Fuld and Jordan Schafer, two players picked up off waivers, into the open position, but it was shortstop of the future Danny Santana who played the bulk of games in center. With top prospect Byron Buxton still at least a year away from getting the call to the big leagues and the coaching staff stating that they want to get Santana playing shortstop, the cupboard appears to be again bare in 2015 if Hicks reverts to his previous ways. It’s imperative that Hicks be the player everyone believes he can be to contribute to the success of the 2015 Minnesota Twins.
Well folks, that completes the 2014 edition of the Who’s That Guy? series. I hope you enjoyed reading the series as much as I did writing it!
Until next time…