The Rise and "Fall" of Aaron Hicks
by, 03-13-2012 at 11:42 PM (2041 Views)
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!