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The Rise and "Fall" of Aaron Hicks

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There are few Twins prospects who frustrate Twins fans as much as Aaron Hicks. He was extremely highly regarded when he was drafted and he has not performed at the level he was expected to, even at a young age. But upon examining Hicks in more detail, it seems clear that people need to hold off on the criticism--he's about right where he needs to be and there is a recent precedent for a breakout career.

Aaron Hicks: switch hitter, 6'2", 185, DOB: 10/2/89 (Age: 22.5)
Aaron Hick minor league statistics:
2008: GCL: 204 PA, .318/.409/.491, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 4 homers, 12/2 SB/CS, 28/32 BB/SO
2009: Beloit: 297 PA, .251/.353/.382, 15 doubles 3 triples, 4 homers, 10/8 SB/CS, 40/55 BB/SO
2010: Beloit: 518 PA, .279/.401/.428, 27 doubles, 6 triples, 8 homers, 21/11 SB/CS, 88/112 BB/SO
2011: Fort Myers: 528 PA, .242/.354/.368, 31 doubles, 5 triples, 5 homers, 17/9 SB/CS, 78/110 BB/SO
2011: Arizona Fall League: 120 (AB+BB) PA, .294/.400/.559, 8 doubles, 5, triples, 3 homers, 5/4 SB/CS, 18/21 BB/SO

Defensively, Aaron Hicks is regarded as basically ready for MLB in center field.

Hicks was drafted with a lot of acclaim and a lot of hope was placed in his potential to be the next Kirby Puckett or Torii Hunter. Then, 2009 happened. Hope was restored in 2010 as he repeated a level. Overall those are pretty good numbers for a 20-year-old in Beloit playing stellar defense. 2011 was a frustrating year for Twins fans who were previously enamored with Hicks' potential. The extra base hits look good, but there isn't a lot of homer power. A lot of Twins fans probably didn't look into what happened in the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is regarded as an offensive paradise for prospects at AA and AAA. That being the case, Hicks' AFL performance might not seem too important. But, he wasn't a AA or AAA player last year and it is possible that he starts this year in Fort Myers again. The hitting in that league is always overhyped because it is a hitters' league, but Hicks was a single-A player playing in a AA/AAA prospect league. He struggled early, but then was dominant . . . in his last ten games his OPS was 1.268.

Hicks is much better at the plate from the right side, so much so that there have been murmurings about him shifting to hitting right-handed only. This is a doubtful move at this point in his career, and obviously there isn't much of a comparison to be made between Hicks vs. righties as a LH hitter and as a RH hitter. For the doubters about his performance, one only needs to look to the minor league career of Torii Hunter who put up very pedestrian numbers until he was 23.

An important appeal to Hicks' potential is the fact that there is no one else in the system that highly regarded who is really a leadoff hitter. Hicks looks to be Denard Span's eventual replacement. And speaking of Span, Hicks appears to project as a kind of Span/Hunter hybrid. He will play excellent defense, strikeout a lot, walk a lot, and hit 10-15 home runs a year.

Even if he starts the year in Fort Myers, I would be surprised if he doesn't finish in New Britain, perhaps splitting time 50/50.

This is a big season for Hicks, and I will be disappointed if he doesn't have a strong season. But I won't be totally dismayed until he actually starts to regress. It appears that a clear directive can be given to him to help substantially: swing the bat more!

Updated 03-14-2012 at 12:45 AM by Shane Wahl

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Comments

  1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
    Hicks is just another #1 first round bust by Deron Johnson our great scouting director. Hicks in 2008, Gibson in 2009, Wimmers in 20120, and Michael in 2012. We need Mike Radcliff back in charge of the scouting department.
  2. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
    Jack, I think it's just a little bit on the early side (like maybe 5 to 10 years early) to call Hicks, Gibson, Wimmers and Michael busts.
  3. Steve Lein's Avatar
    per Jim Rantz talking to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, Hicks is going to start in AA this year.

    You have a very short-sited, unfortunate circumstance, and small sample (or no sample in Michael's case) view of what a "Bust" is, Jack... Adam Johnson, now THAT'S a bust (and a Mike Radcliff guy, at the #2 overall pick)
  4. Neinstein's Avatar
    I've never understood why Hicks has been placed at the top of the list year after year. It's become a joke with some of my buddies.
  5. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    Prospect rankings don't only account for statistics. They also consider projected ceilings (Hicks' ceiling is very high, obviously) and how they play. Still, the statistics aren't that bad, especially his career OBP. That's coupled with stellar defense.
  6. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    I wonder if NB will have Hicks-Herrmann 1-2 in the lineup? That is some serious isolated discipline (though maybe they could swing a bit more).
  7. John Bonnes's Avatar
    The high number of walks AND strikeouts worries me. And an OPS of barely 700 in High A ball isn't anything to write home about, though Fort Myers is definitely a pitchers park and league. But I'm going to look forward to seeing what he can or can't do in AA. That's often a make or break year, and he'll be 22 most of the year, which isn't old but isn't super young, either. There's no reason to panic - what good would it do exactly? - but it'll help the Twins considerably if he gains back a little luster. After the AFL, I'm hopeful he will.
  8. coachingkid's Avatar
    I'd Hicks defense and arm over Revere right now. He is a potential 5 tool player and the best Revere ever will be is a 3 tool player and right now is only a 2 tool player.
  9. by jiminy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Fanatic Jack
    Hicks is just another #1 first round bust by Deron Johnson our great scouting director. Hicks in 2008, Gibson in 2009, Wimmers in 20120, and Michael in 2012. We need Mike Radcliff back in charge of the scouting department.
    That Levi Michael -- what a bust!
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