Hicks following the path laid by Hunter, Span
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Hicks following the path laid by Hunter, Span
Since the Twins took Aaron Hicks with their first round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, there has been plenty of talk about the athletic outfielder fitting into the future plans of the Twins organization. Hicks was one of the highest draft picks the Twins had prior to drafting Byron Buxton in this year's draft and he seemed to have all of the tools to make him a very valuable player. It hasn't been a fast rise to the top for Mr. Hicks during his five years in the farm system for the Twins but he looks like he might slowly be figuring things out at the Double-A level with the New Britain Rock Cats.
There has been an up and down trend to the career of Hicks with there being more downs than ups. He can go through extreme hot stretches were he looks like a power threat from both sides of the plate and he follows that up with a rough couple of months that brings his statistics back down to earth. This roller coaster ride has been something that the Twins have tried to solve in recent years as they try and push the outfielder to find more consistency in his approach at the plate. The trend of ups and downs has continued in 2012 with some poor months mixed in with some very good offensive months.
The month of July has been one of those very good months for Hicks. In his 14 games played in July, he is hitting .358/.452/.566 with five extra-base hits including two home runs and four RBI. This is also following the month of June where he hit .288/.377/.424 and all of those numbers were higher than his career averages. So it seems that the last couple of months have slowly been improving for Hicks as he starts to get more experience at the Double-A level. For the most part, his 2012 campaign would be excellent if not very a rough month of May at the plate.
It could be a season of new personal records for Hicks on the offensive side of the ball. He has a career high nine home runs and he is closing in on some other personal bests. He is one triple away from tying his career high of six triples in a season and he has 19 stolen bases which is two short of his own record. There is over a third of the season left so this should give Hicks plenty of time to set some offensive highs for himself in the coming months.
One of the biggest problems for the switch-hitting Hicks has been the change in his splits versus right-handed or left-handed pitchers. He is traditionally much better from the right side of the plate versus left-handed pitching. While this trend has continued in 2012, the gap is closing between his splits and he has shown the ability to hit for power from both sides of the plate. As a right handed hitter in 88 at-bats, he is hitting .295/.370/.466 with four home runs and three doubles. He has more than double the at-bats from the left side, 203 plate appearances, and he is hitting .266/.365/.424 with five home runs and five triples. It is great to see his numbers improve from both sides of the plate but it is also very good to see him become a more well-rounded hitter in the box.
In the past, the Twins have seen some other high school outfielders take their time while developing in the system for the Twins. Denard Span didn't debut until he was 24 and his first full season in the big leagues didn't come until the next season as a 25-year old. Torii Hunter made his debut as a 21-year old but he only go into one game and he was used as a pinch runner. His first full season would come a couple seasons later when he was 23-years old. He hadn't been blowing the cover off of the ball in the minor leagues but he became an All-Star caliber player for the Twins. It is also important to remember that the Twins teams of the late 1990's were not very good so it allowed for younger players to get more playing time. Could this situation play out with Hicks in the next couple years?
With Hicks playing all of this season so far at Double-A, there are plenty that are wondering when the young star will be making his debut with the Twins. The 22-year old might be a long shot to debut in 2012 because there are a few things working against him at this point. He is not on the 40-man roster and that means another move would need to be made to clear a spot for him even though that wouldn't be too difficult. There are a couple other young outfielders, Oswaldo Arcia and Joe Benson, that are already ahead of him because they have 40-man roster spots. Arcia is having a tremendous season but he spent the first part of the year at the High-A level so it might be pushing it to say he will get a chance this year. During last September, Benson got a taste of the big leagues but he has struggled in 2012. It will be a toss up to see if any of these players get the call this year.
It seems the Twins front office would be satisfied with Hick showing that he can be a consistent offensive threat from both sides of the plate. His speed and defense have always been his best attributes and it seems that his hitting is slowly coming along. Twins fans can hope that he will follow some of the other high school outfielders that took some time to develop in the minor leagues before becoming solid regulars with the club. For now, Hicks will continue to refine his approach at the Double-A level in hopes that he can call himself a major league player at some point in the next two years.