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Black Holes--Part III

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I've blogged about the disappointing offense for the 2013 Twins and pointed out three guys who are offensive tail enders. Brian Dozier--limited ceiling middle infielder, Chris Parmelee--right fielder/first baseman who has teased the Twins with good stretches, but has failed once and is failing again to secure a spot from the start of the season and now Aaron Hicks.

Aaron Hicks ranks fifteenth of fifteen center fielders in OPS. He started the season as the Twins' leadoff hitter and center fielder and has since been put near the bottom of the order. Hicks started historically bad. He finished April with a .113 batting average and .356 OPS--many pitchers (and Drew Butera) would be ashamed of that stat line. There has been slow improvement. For the month of May, Hicks is hitting .202 and OPSing an even .700, not great but a noticeable improvement from the previous month. Hick had hit five homers, second on the team, and has scored 25 runs and knocked in 17.

Hicks was the Twins #1 draft choice in 2008 and he moved slowly through the system, repeating low A ball at Beloit. He has never hit .300 in a full season, has never played an inning in AAA, and the switch hitter's splits have always shown him to be a better right handed hitter. Nevertheless, the Twins saw fit to promote him based on a solid season in New Britain and a very good spring training. Hicks has always shown good selectivity and has shown from the beginning the tools necessary to be a fine defensive center fielder.

Several issues have developed around Aaron and the Twins' center field position. First, he currently doesn't have a true backup. Fourth outfielder Darin Mastoianni has been injured basically all season. Another candidate for center, Joe Benson, was claimed on waivers after being demoted and struggling at Rochester. The Twins have no backup CF on the major league roster or the current 40-man roster. Hicks' struggles have prompted calls for him to be sent down to Triple A, also meaning that if he stays in the minors for three weeks, the Twins would get another year of service from Hicks before he could be a free agent. So far, the Twins are saying that he will do his struggling and learning in the majors. Many are calling for Hicks to give up switch hitting and be only a RH hitter.

What does the immediate future hold for Aaron Hicks? With no replacement (and no room) on the 40-man roster, it looks like he is safe from demotion at least until Mastoianni can play again. Continued improvement would probably keep him in Minnesota for the rest of the season. More than any player on the 25-man roster, the priority with Hicks is his development. He is considered a Prospect with a capital P and developing his talent is Objective One. I have thought from the beginning that a month in Rochester would be beneficial for Hicks. Failing that, having an alternate who could start once or twice a week against a tough righthander would be helpful. Since that doesn't appear to be an option, I guess that answer is to let him play and learn. I certainly don't think making Hicks a righthanded hitter makes sense. I would predict that Hicks continues to get at-bats and continues to improve modestly. The numbers probably won't be pretty, but a BA over .200 and an OPS in the mid .600s would be a success considering his dreadful start.

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