Is Aaron Hicks Ready For Launch?
We have done plenty of talking this winter about how much competition the Twins will have in centerfield to start the season. Being a position that has seen plenty of different players inhabit it, but no one make it a full-time home, 2015 is waiting for someone to step up. For what will likely be the last time, Aaron Hicks is being given the first opportunity. Is he finally ready to answer the bell?
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During the 2013 Spring Training campaign, Aaron Hicks played himself into the starting centerfield role. With impressive statistics at the plate, and a strong defensive ability in the outfield, he seamlessly took over for the departures of both Denard Span and Ben Revere. Quite quickly however, the storybook ended and things came to a screeching halt.
During his first full season at the major league level, Hicks batted just .192/.259/.338 across 81 games before being sent back down by the Twins. A similar scenario played out in 2014 as Hicks spent just 69 games with the Twins while hitting .215/.341/.374 before getting sent back to the minors by the club.
Welcome to your last chance Mr. Hicks.
The difference is massive this time around however. Aaron Hicks was the Minnesota Twins first round pick in the 2008 Major League Draft. Prior to this season he had never successively went through the minor league farm system, and for a high school kid that was never billed as a mega prospect, jumping rungs is a pretty big deal. After being demoted to Double-A by former manager Ron Gardenhire a season ago, Hicks got that chance.
In 2014 following his demotion, Hicks went on to bat .297/.404/.466 at the Double-A level across 43 games. He backed that performance by hitting .278/.349/.389 at the Triple-A level over the course of 24 games. While the 2014 season wasn’t at all good at the major league level, Hicks combined to hit .291/.387/.441 across the two highest levels of the minors. More impressively yet, he compiled a 37/40 BB/K strikeout ratio across his 67 minor league games in 2014, furthering his patience at the plate and knowledge of the strike zone.
Enter the 2015 season.
With Byron Buxton waiting to lay claim to the centerfield spot for what the Twins hope is the next 15 years, Aaron Hicks can play himself into the Twins future. Show well and become the Twins long-term solution at one of the corner outfield spots. Have another season like the previous two, and Hicks could find himself out of the Twins organization altogether. This time, there should be plenty of belief in the former however.
Gone is Gardenhire, and in is Paul Molitor. While Hicks has been noted as someone who lacked a work ethic and didn’t work as hard as he should have, the young outfielder gets a fresh opportunity with a new face. It will once again be on Hicks to prove he wants it, and you can bet Molitor will accept nothing less, but the change of scenery should help him.
The progression is now also in Hicks’ back pocket for the first time in his career. Confidence should be flowing knowing that he can do this. it isn’t the same as before, and he’s never approached the major leagues with the knowledge of what the top levels of the minors can provide. As he enters Spring Training, he will face off against plenty fresh faces, and more importantly, those he has had success against.
There is no reason suggesting that Aaron Hicks will put it together, no one can know that. The narrative however, is that Aaron Hicks can put it together and what’s most important is that he’s now armed with that belief as well.
Spring Training can be a fickle beast, and while the results over the next month probably shouldn’t carry too much weight, the process is where the determination will be made. 2015 is Aaron Hicks’ year, if for nothing else, because it has to be.
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