• Could Aaron Hicks Be An Opening Day starter?

    This offseason, some minor leaguers have provided plenty of excitement. Kyle Gibson looked dominant in his first Arizona Fall League starts before a rough start yesterday. But he isn't the only player making some noise in a winter league as Aaron Hicks has put together some strong numbers in the Venezuelan League during his first handful of games. This comes on the heels of his best season as a professional while playing at the Double-A level for the Twins. As was mentioned on Twins Daily last week, his stock will be rising this offseason so it is interesting to consider where he could end up at the beginning of next season.

    The Twins have a surplus of outfielders at the moment so some of the players at the major league level would need to be moved before the start of next year. Could that open up the opportunity for Hicks to begin the season as a starting outfielder for the Minnesota Twins?

    Since the Twins took Hicks with their first round pick back in 2008, things haven't gone perfectly for the toolsy outfielder from California. The problem hasn't been defensive; he was named by Baseball America as the top defensive outfielder and having the best outfield arm in the Twins system at the conclusion of last season.

    However, the offensive side of the ball has been a little sketchy on his way through the minors. He is a switch hitter so finding his stroke from the left side of the plate was a little bit of a challenge. Something clicked this year and the organization finally started to see the player they were looking for when they took him in the first half of the first round of the draft.

    Hicks saw his batting average rise 44 points from the 2011 season to finish at the highest point since he started playing in full season leagues back in 2009. Reports have him shortening up his stroke from the left side to make more contact and this helped to get on base at a more consistent rate from both sides of the plate.

    After hitting 41 extra-base hits in 2011, he hit 45 extra-base hits in 2012 and he hit double digits in home runs for the first time in his career. Last year, he hit 31 doubles and only five home runs while this year his home runs went up to 13 and his doubles dropped to 21 for the year. His speed has always been a threat and he set the Rock Cats record for triples in one season with 11 three baggers.

    He has gotten almost 40 at-bats in Venezuela and his line is consistent with his minor league track record. There has been a little bit of power with a home run and a couple doubles. Hicks is also getting on-base at a .370 mark but he is striking out in a third of his at-bats. He has three multi-hit games so far and it's nice to see him getting a few stolen bases. So far in this league, he has reached base 17 times and he has scored a run in almost half of those appearances on the base paths. His team, the Bravos de Margarita, is in first place at the moment so he is having the opportunity to play for a winning team in a very competitive league.

    It's a long shot that Hicks would gain serious consideration for a starting spot unless injuries struck, but there are some factors in his favor. During spring training the last two years, Hicks has been part of the major league camp for at least a portion of the schedule. This has given Ron Gardenhire a closer look at the young outfielder and now the coaching staff at the major league level is composed of plenty of men with minor league experience so they could be even more familiar with the ins-and-outs of Mr. Hicks. If the coaches and front office think the time is right, Hicks could get an extra long look for the job as starting outfielder for the Twins.

    With Denard Span, Ben Revere, Josh Willingham, and Chris Parmelee all ahead of Hicks on the outfield depth chart, there would need to be some kind of trade to make room. Willingham might be a prime trade candidate after having a career year in 2012 and Span's name has been out in the rumor mill for more than one season. The Twins have made it clear that they need more starting pitching for 2013 and the surplus of outfielders seems like the most likely place to find value on the trade market. Justin Morneau could also be dealt to free up a spot for Parmelee in the infield and this could give Hicks a quicker path to a starting role in Minnesota.

    But the Twins have been patient with Hicks since they drafted him four seasons ago and it seem most likely for the club to continue this philosophy for the beginning of next year. Hicks hasn't made an appearance at the Triple-A level so it seems more likely for him to get the opportunity to prove himself at that level before being asked to come up to the major leagues. If the Twins were seriously thinking about him being a starter for 2013, there is a good chance he would have been given a call-up at the end of this year.

    It's still great to be having a positive conversation about Hicks after multiple disappointing years in the minors. He seems to have turned the corner and fingers are crossed for him to continue on the path to making his debut sometime in 2013.



    This article was originally published in blog: Should Aaron Hicks be an Opening Day starter? started by Cody Christie
    Comments 16 Comments
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      They weren't comfortable playing him in fall call-ups when he most certainly could have been given a chance. They clearly don't think he's ready. Why would they start him next season? If we don't see any outfielders traded there is at least 6 of them they would be comfortable playing before Hicks.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Twins are flush with CF. I must agree that it is virtually a cinch Hicks starts at Rochester in 2013.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      The only way that Hicks is opening day starter is if Span is traded and Revere gets injured in the spring. And even then they might find a way to keep Hicks in the minors. I don't really have a problem with it though since imo next season is a retooling season and there isn't any reason to allow Hicks to be a FA one year earlier or to get super 2 status. Hopefully he'll be up for good at midseason as part of the next youth movement. There is a really nice offensive core coming up in the next 2-3 years to go with Gibson, ?, ?, ? and ?. If they can find some pitching this could be an exciting team.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      No chance this particular organization has him up. Way too risky in their minds.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      Hicks' development path reminds me a lot of Hunter's. No eye popping numbers, but fairly steady ascension through the system. Wish the Twins had given him a cup of coffee last season.

      I think starting in Rochester and getting off to a good start would be best for him.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      I think the Twins will let Parmelee try RF first and, if/when he fails, call up one of Arcia/Hicks but it won't be until late May, at the earliest.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      He could hit .900 with 20 HR 20 SB in spring training and the Twins wouldn't give him an opening day job. No way whatsoever will Terry Ryan let Hicks get super 2 status. Mastroianni and what ever journeyman outfielder they bring in for organizational filler would get the call before Hicks, should guys go down with injuries.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      He could hit .900 with 20 HR 20 SB in spring training and the Twins wouldn't give him an opening day job. No way whatsoever will Terry Ryan let Hicks get super 2 status. Mastroianni and what ever journeyman outfielder they bring in for organizational filler would get the call before Hicks, should guys go down with injuries.
      Parmelee just last year 'earned' his opening day job in spring training... of course, roster spots decided by spring training performance is not good. The guys who had the best spring trainings for the Twins last year were Danny Valencia, Luke Hughes and Nick Blackburn.

      Simply, Hicks isn't quite ready. He's getting closer, but he's not there yet. So yes, Willingham, Span/Revere, and Parmelee will likely start the season in the OF, with Mastroianni as the 4th OF. In June, they can see where Arcia and Hicks are and how much they've improved.

      Super 2 won't be the reason they don't make it, but it SHOULD be a reasoning. In a season that we assume they won't compete for a playoff spot, it doesn't make sense to lose an arbitration year down the line. It's just smart. It's good business. This isn't a Mike Trout and the Angels situation.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Do people around here understand how super2 works? If he makes the roster out of ST and stays on it, he will not be a candidate for super2.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Do people around here understand how super2 works? If he makes the roster out of ST and stays on it, he will not be a candidate for super2.
      No, but he'd be a free agent after the 2018 season instead of the 2019 season by calling him up after about June 15th. If he is what he hope he is, that matters...
    1. Fire Dan Gladden's Avatar
      Fire Dan Gladden -
      When Span isn't traded this year, what happens to Parmalee? No CF ability means no 4th OF spot
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Do people around here understand how super2 works? If he makes the roster out of ST and stays on it, he will not be a candidate for super2.
      No, but he'd be a free agent after the 2018 season instead of the 2019 season by calling him up after about June 15th. If he is what he hope he is, that matters...
      yes, that I get... That wasn't my point. People seem to think that making the opening day roster affects super 2... that only affects guys who have 2 years and approximately 2 months of service...
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      The cutoff this year was 2 years and 139 days of service time. Alex Burnett was at about 2 years and 135 days, so he wasn't a Super 2.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      I didn't read the article, but the clear answer is: No.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Your article would be more aptly name,"Should" Aaron Hicks be an Opening Day starter?

      Could? I suppose

      Should? No
    1. wavedog's Avatar
      wavedog -
      The answer is Yes, but at Triple AAA not the Majors.
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