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Live baseball in 2020: Bay Stars 2 - Swallows 8

Other Baseball Today, 12:34 AM
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world from Target Field, the Yokohama Bay Stars lost 2 - 8 to host Yakult Swallows at Jingu Stadium i...
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Royce Lewis on YouTube

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Game Thread: Twins @ Royals, 8/7/20, 7:05PM CT

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2020 Twins Transactions

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 08:47 PM
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How the Twins Could Do "It"

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 08:13 PM
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Aaron Hicks' New Swing Paying Dividends

After making the team out of spring training two years straight, Aaron Hicks was sent back to Triple-A Rochester as lesser options made the team ahead of him. The message to Hicks was clear: Force your way back up here.
Well, message received. Hicks obliterated the International League to the tune of a .336/.415/.561 batting line over 27 games, essentially forcing the hands of the Twins brass to get him back up here and see what, if any, changes he had made and if they’d stick. Of Hicks’ 36 hits in those 27 games, 16 had gone for extra bases, and he’d also stolen a couple bases without an unsuccessful attempt. In short, it was time.

Hicks made his debut in Detroit, and through four games hasn’t gone hitless yet as a drastically-altered approach and mechanics seem to have taken hold, at least in early returns. From both sides of the plate, Hicks has adopted a pronounced leg kick with lots of hand movement as he prepares to load for his swing. Both elements were evident on Friday night as Hicks poked a 1-1 pitch from Tampa Bay starter Jake Odorizzi into left field for his only hit of the game in the seventh inning, just two pitches before Danny Santana tripled him home with the tying run.

Where did this all come from, though? Hicks said that, funnily enough, the change boiled down to him and a few of his guys messing around in the batting cages in the offseason. They were taking turns mimicking the leg kicks of established hitters like Yasiel Puig, Robinson Cano and Hanley Ramirez when before long, Hicks realized there might be something more than just a little goofing off to break up the winter doldrums.

“I started to like it,” Hicks said. “From then on it was kind of a point where I was just like, you know what, I’m going to try this. We were just having fun in offseason hitting, and it just kind of led to me being comfortable with it and taking solid swings.”

The change, which Hicks says has been key in terms of timing, having power and staying consistent, really took hold in spring training, where he had some help in the tinkering to fine tune it.

“I came to spring training with the leg kick,” Hicks said. “Torii helped tinker it for me as far as what I needed to do to be able to get my foot down in time. There was tinkering all through the spring.” Hicks added that it didn’t really sink in that the change was permanent until the end of spring, when he was in minor league camp.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan said before Friday’s game that players experiment with leg kicks quite frequently, and that the organization doesn’t have an issue with it as long as the hitter thinks it will help, and the manager and hitting instructor agree. In Hicks’ case and everyone else’s, Ryan said that the kicks typically evolve, based on comfort level and where exactly the evolution of that adjustment takes them. Ultimately, the club hoped Hicks would trip the trigger a bit from a passive hitter to a bit more aggressive — aggressively patient in Hicks’ own words — and in the mind of the hitter, that’s already happening.

“I feel like with the leg kick I’ve been more aggressive,” Hicks said. “Swinging early in counts and being able to make contact early, and not missing pitches.” Hicks again hearkened back to spring training for when he felt the adjustment taking hold, as he went into spring camp with the idea that he wanted to get in as many swings as possible, which could potentially (and did) lead to fewer walks, but also more opportunities to get hits.

Foundationally, a drastic change like this can need time for it to ‘take’ so to speak, especially with the amount of movement in his setup and the need to keep his head still throughout. Hicks said that hasn’t been too much of an issue, as he’s actually been more worried about a different part of his swing; one that’s more close to the issue at hand.

“I think for me it’s more important to have my hands ready all the time to be able to fire them whenever I need to,” Hicks noted. “A leg kick is going to generate my timing mechanism so I need to have my hands ready.”

In short, it’s a young player looking to make adjustments to not just be a guy on the team, but one of the key contributors. “To stick is the most important part,” Hicks said of his third trip to the big leagues. “Being able to play the way I know how to play and to help this team win games. That’s the most important thing. Producing is key. I want to be here long term. Not just to stay here, but be a guy who can help this team win.”

Manager Paul Molitor stopped shy of endorsing Hicks as in the big leagues to stay, but heaped effusive praise on some of the aspects in his center fielder’s game that had fallen shy in the past and likely led to his demotion to open the 2015 campaign. “He’s done well,” Molitor said. “His at-bats across the board have been better. What I’ve tried to watch so far is that he’s seemed very engaged in the field defensively, in the dugout watching, trying to gain an edge. Those are the things that he needs to do to be a consistent player here.”

Molitor didn’t stop there, as he said he’d like to see a continued evolution from Hicks as a player in all facets. “He has to understand that he’s the kind of player that can go 0-for-4 and still influence a game, whether it’s defensively, or he gets on base with a walk and steals a base and creates a run-scoring situation. Just to become more complete in the way he goes about his game, and realizing what he can bring to the team to help them win on that given day.”

It seems as though Hicks has received that message. His outfield defense has been smooth — a sight for the sore eyes of the Twins faithful — and though he hasn’t taken his first walk — history tells us those will be coming soon in ample supply — it appears as though he may be on his way to influencing games in a number of ways, just like you’d expect someone you used a high first-round pick on.

Ryan said that he senses a different air about Hicks; that he’s more confident and it’s for good reason. “He held up his end of the bargain (at Triple-A),” Ryan said. “He went down there and got to work. Consequently, he got promoted and rewarded.”


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16 Comments

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Willihammer
May 16 2015 07:34 PM
I am liking Hicks 3.0. That Forsythe ball in the sixth ( 5th?) looked like trouble but Hicks ran it down easily. Sure is nice to have a guy with wheels out there. His approach at the plate looks a lot less hesitant too.
    • glunn, diehardtwinsfan, twinsnorth49 and 5 others like this

It seems to me that he is just missing on a lot of his swings early in the count.  You can see him  not watching a strike early in the count.  He is making aggressive swings and hopefully as he starts seeing more major league quality pitching he will start to catch those early offerings with solid contact.  Most of his hits have been later in the count, with a more contact oriented swing.  Excited to see him drive some of the misses as he starts to catch up.

    • glunn likes this

I remember when Torii Hunter came up for good after his last stint in the minors in 2000. He had finally overcome his tentativeness at the plate and began to hit like a major leaguer. I hope we're seeing the same thing with Aaron Hicks.

    • glunn likes this

I am a Hicks hater, but nobody wants him to succeed more than I do.I like what I've seen on the field and at the plate. 

However, we've all known guys like him... a guy with more talent and more physical tools than everybody else and who excels, even though they aren't making maximum effort.They always seem to find a way to sabotage their own success.I hope I am wrong.I hope he succeeds.and I hope the Twins make him part of a good trade unlike the way they fumbled Delman Young.Trade him while he is going good and let another team deal with him.:)

 

I am a Hicks hater, but nobody wants him to succeed more than I do.I like what I've seen on the field and at the plate. 

However, we've all known guys like him... a guy with more talent and more physical tools than everybody else and who excels, even though they aren't making maximum effort.They always seem to find a way to sabotage their own success.I hope I am wrong.I hope he succeeds.and I hope the Twins make him part of a good trade unlike the way they fumbled Delman Young.Trade him while he is going good and let another team deal with him.:)

 

We all walk different paths.  We cannot know what's going on in Hicks' head or all that he's been through in his life.  

 

It seems to me that "hating" a player who is on your favorite team is counterproductive.  If Hicks does well then it may be harder for you to enjoy his success.  And if Hicks does poorly, there will be no joy in that.

 

I am hoping that this new leg kick combined with a manager who has a different approach will truly help this young man realize his potential.  If not, then I will be sad but won't hate him.

    • luckylager, diehardtwinsfan, whosafraidofluigirussolo and 3 others like this

When I first saw Hicks come up, a couple things struck me. First, clearly he was an athlete of superior quality, which is the reason the Twins drafted him. He was big, fast, strong, coordinated, and apparently highly intelligent. Second, he seemed clueless at the plate. He would plant himself there like he was getting ready to fend off a Sumo wrestler, then flail at outside pitches while sticking his butt out like "The French Mistake" from Mel Brooks's "Blazing Saddles."

 

It was mystifying to me how a guy so otherwise talented could look so passive and defensive at the plate. Didn't anybody show him video of Babe Ruth? Dave Winfield? He should be waving the bat and launching himself like those guys!

 

Finally, we're seeing just a bit of this man's power potential. With his physical attributes, he should be able to launch home runs almost like Giancarlo Stanton. He should be making people cringe in fear in the third deck in center, and putting dents in outfield fences.

 

Hitting isn't about trying to avoid striking out; it's about trying to launch little white baseballs into low earth orbit. I don't watch baseball to see Aaron Hicks work a count to a walk or a slap single. Guys like Aaron Hicks should be making pitchers dive out of the way and fielders look frozen in place. Look at the game's most entertaining player, Bryce Harper. He spends hours practicing not just in a cage, but with a weighted bat, learning how to swing that thing with frightening force.

 

I want Aaron Hicks to swing the bat like Bryce Harper, but harder.

    • glunn, kab21 and Hosken Bombo Disco like this

I love it when Hicks makes a great catch or a clutch hit.I also hope he can be packaged in a good trade while his value is high.Let someone else deal with the inevitableslide into confusion and ineptitude as his motivation and enthusiasm wanes.(there;s a bunch of 3-4 syllable words for you:)

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NoCryingInBaseball
May 17 2015 06:13 AM

I certainly am someone who can be included in the “disappointed” category for Hicks over the past two seasons. Yes, I think the Twins organization had a big hand in the failures of Hicks’s performance, but Hicks had a much larger role with his embarrassing trials and tribulations. I am now cautious from getting my hopes up but I do want him to succeed. Guess I prefer that he find a role with the club, such as Center Field until Buxton takes it for good and then a corner outfield spot. I recognize that when (or if) all four (Buxton, Hicks, Arcia and Rosario) are very good outfielders and trade might be in the best interest of the club….what a nice problem to have!

    • glunn likes this
"inevitable slide into confusion and ineptitude as his motivation and enthusiasm wanes.(there;s a bunch of 3-4 syllable words for you"....That slide may have been inevitable for you, but it is avoidable for the rest of us.
    • glunn likes this

Like how he looks in a very small sample.  Just appears more confident at the plate and in the field.  Really hoping he has turned a corner and can become a quality contributor for this team.  Would love to see both him and Buxton in the outfield by the end of the year.

    • SQUIRREL, glunn and spinowner like this
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HitInAPinch
May 17 2015 09:10 AM

"From both sides of the plate, Hicks has adopted a pronounced leg kick with lots of hand movement as he prepares to load for his swing."

 

It depends on what"lot's of hand movement" means.Typically, any decent pitcher/catcher combo will start busting that batter inside on a regular basis and jam the heck outta him.Or does Hicks stop as the pitcher starts to deliver?Like David Ortiz..

 

Damn, now I'm thinking I need to spend the extra $11 a month to get FSN on DirecTV :)

    • glunn likes this
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Patrick Midthun
May 17 2015 11:12 AM
His swing is looking noticeably better since being recently called up, and he is by far outplaying the level of play Schaefer was giving us. So far, so good.
    • glunn and HitInAPinch like this
essentially forcing the hands of the Twins brass to get him back up here and see what, if any, changes he had made and if they’d stick.

 

Apparently reports from the Rochester field staff were lost by the Pony Express en route to Minneapolis.

 

And Terry Ryan must have judged it more cost-effective to buy Hicks a one-way airline ticket than to get a round-trip ticket for himself to see what's going on in person

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Brandon Warne
May 17 2015 05:45 PM

 

Apparently reports from the Rochester field staff were lost by the Pony Express en route to Minneapolis.

 

And Terry Ryan must have judged it more cost-effective to buy Hicks a one-way airline ticket than to get a round-trip ticket for himself to see what's going on in person

 

Terry watched Rochester play in Syracuse a couple weeks ago

    • ashbury likes this

Terry watched Rochester play in Syracuse a couple weeks ago

I was just kidding, about the way Hicks's promotion was being explained.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Hicks has finally figured it out - his history is that he has struggled with each promotion and needed extra time at each stop. With MLB being a significant step up from AA and AAA, hopefully only three times is needed.

 

As additional prospects start to get here, we will probably see many of them bounce back and forth a little bit. I'm hoping that Hicks represents a full one standard deviation from what the normal time for adjustment will be. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Vargas to make the necessary adjustments to get back up. It seems that they have a longer leash on Santana to adjust while remaining in Minneapolis. I don't think that sending Arcia back down would serve any purpose (other than as a wake-up call to rein in his cockiness). Molitor seems to like Rosario a lot so I think he has a slim chance stick, but I would expect a return to Rochester will happen at some point to fine-tune some things before he's up for good. Finally, I think the Twins will wait a little longer with both Buxton and Sano because I believe that they want to promote them once and make sure they stick the first time (minus one standard deviation).

    • Cast of Thousands likes this

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