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  • Top '13 Stories: #8 - Aaron Hicks' lost year

    Two of the biggest stories from 2012 led to one of the biggest (and worst) stories of the Minnesota Twins 2013 season. Last winter, just one week separated the trade of center fielders Denard Span and Ben Revere to NL East teams. At that point, the writing was on the wall: Twins fans would see center field prospect Aaron Hicks in 2013.
    The watch started in spring training and expectations sky-rocketed after he hit three home runs early in Grapefruit League action. His performance encouraged the Twins to start Hicks in center field on Opening Day, skipping AAA completely. The fairy tale for which Twins fans were hoping ended there.

    Hicks didn’t get a hit on Opening Day, and though he got his first hit by the end of the series, it was one of only two he had in his first 48 at-bats. He gradually improved, but the key word is “gradually,” reaching a .179 batting average by June ninth when he left the second game of a doubleheader with a hamstring strain.

    He returned in July, hitting .230 with a 671 OPS for the month, before being demoted to Rochester at the beginning of August. He was almost immediately benched with a quad strain followed by a heel injury followed by a sore wrist. He finished the year hitting just .222 in Rochester and .192 in the majors. And when the Twins traded Justin Morneau, they acquired Alex Presley, a 28-year-old center fielder who finished the season as the Twins starting center fielder.

    Hicks has some serious challenges facing him. Prior to his 2012 breakout campaign in AA-New Britain, scouts wondered if he should remain a switch-hitter, since he hit so poorly from the left side of the plate. His .559 OPS in the majors versus right-handers resurrected those concerns. He needs to show he can handle AAA pitching, let alone major league pitching. And with top minor league prospect Byron Buxton charging through the farm system, he can no longer count on being the organization’s future center fielder.

    On the other hand, he’s still just 24 years old, still a #1 pick and still the guy who came into last year as the 72nd best prospect in baseball. He now has a better idea of what is required to reach and survive in the majors, and demonstrated his speed/patience/power skill set last year, even if he forgot to hit.

    Finally, he was limited to 124 days of service time, meaning the Twins have several more years to see what they have or ease him into the majors as a fourth outfielder, if need be. In fact, he was only added to the 40-man roster last November, so the Twins can have him spend a couple years in AAA if necessary.

    It was a disappointing step backwards for Hicks and the organization, but perhaps that was a result of trying to take such a giant step forward. He’ll begin 2014 in the place where he clearly should have begun 2013: on the cusp of a promising major league career. That’s not such a bad place to be, even after a lost year.
    More Top 13 Twins '13 Stories

    #13 – Twins in the WBC
    #12 – Drew Butera Traded to Dodgers
    #11 – Twins Sign Kubel, Trade Doumit
    #10 - Brian Dozier Breaks Through
    #9 - Kyle Gibson Promoted
    #8 - Aaron Hicks' Lost Year
    #7 - Twins Draft Kohl Stewart
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Sleestax's Avatar
      Sleestax -
      Pressley can handle it until Buxton. Hicks becomes expendable and ten to one he hits the cover off the ball in Grapefruit this Spring. Or maybe he can cover the backup role playing every day in AAA. Fuggit...Buxton plays his way on team. Team plays over >500 ball and our starting pitching is vastly improved. Mauer is in the batting race and hits 22 home runs. Willingham show up all pumped and hits close to 30...plays uninspired LF. Gets traded for something decent. Maybe this is Hicks return. Twins never pick in the top 10 again.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Not sure that it was a lost year per se. Trying year definitely, but hopefully not lost if lessons were learned by both Hicks and the Organization. Few random numbers that make me hopeful:

      91: OPS+ as a RHB
      .146: isoP as a LHB & RHB (that's up there at Doumit/Willingham levels)
      .241: BABIP (for the type of player he is should be 100 points higher; was .315 in AAA in 2013 and in the mid 300s all his career)
      .231/.362/.641 (even with .174 BABIP) : his numbers against the 12 LHSP he faced in the majors.

      I am sure that there are lessons to learn here and (aside from the beaten to death switch hitting situation) from what I see, the biggest issue he faced all season was to make successful adjustments at the plate and change his approach depending on the pitcher. And I think that this is experience. He never met this quality (and variety) of pitching in the minors and he will not if he spends 2014 there. So for him to figure it out, he should be playing CF most of the days and Presley can rest him against tough righties.

      One good sign: He did not take frustration from his PAs to the field with him.
      One bad sign: Seems to care too much about golf and not baseball during the off-season. If I were him, I'd be spending time in cages with coaches and not on greens...
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The bigger issue was that Hicks tore the cover off the ball in Spring Training. And the alternatives failed just as miserably. It was anyone's job to win or take away. Joe Benson went down to the minors and totally stunk, getting a waiver claim from the Rangers who have since removed him from heir 40-man. Mastro had the chance to steal the job from Hicks, but turned up lame not just once, but twice. Ramirez was limited to less than 100 at bats. Hicks was in center because there was no one else to play, and the Twins didn't really want to add any of the OTHER vets to the 40-man.

      Yes, they waited too long to move him down in the order. They probably should've found a replacement and sent him down earlier to Rochester, then promoting him at season's end.

      He didn't get the September call-up. He didn't play winter ball. He may still have more to learn at AAA Rochester.

      It was a rude awakening that backfired for the Twins, and especially for Hicks, who didn't get enough service time in the end.

      Is he still the centerfield guy of the future, think not. Rosario and Buxton both could play there. But teamed in the corners with Arcia, the Twins may have a pretty solid outfield in 2015 and beyond.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      for what it is worth, which is very little of course, I think that the twins future outfield will be Rosario, Buxton, Hicks, with Arcia at DH and getting time in the corners.
    1. peterb18's Avatar
      peterb18 -
      It will all boil down to whether he can hit the curve ball.
    1. TheBigGuy7273's Avatar
      TheBigGuy7273 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      for what it is worth, which is very little of course, I think that the twins future outfield will be Rosario, Buxton, Hicks, with Arcia at DH and getting time in the corners.
      Seth I would bet your right, especially with Dozier playing so well in '13
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Don't put any money on it though, because weird stuff happens all the time!!
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