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Time to be concerned about Aaron Hicks?

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#1 stringer bell

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 08:48 PM

During Spring Training, I had several opinions on players--some were right on, some were debatable, and some were totally wrong. I was wrong about Chris Colabello--I never thought he could amount to more than a spare part on any big league team. I was right, I think, that he should not be considered an outfielder. I was right about Kyle Gibson and Trevor Plouffe (so far) and wrong as far as Josmil Pinto being used as a DH.

The opinion I probably spent the most time discussing was that Aaron Hicks should have started 2013 in the minor leagues. I was willing to see the Twins start with Alex Presley and have him replaced by Hicks if Aaron played well enough in Rochester.

Day games during the week have prevented me from seeing much Twins action. However, I check out every game and every box score. So far, Hicks is hitting .167 with a .492 OPS, he has walked 11 times, but struck out 18. From what I have seen, he isn't hitting in particularly bad luck and he hasn't looked particularly potent from either side of the plate.

Much conversation has centered on the lack of hitting from the Twins starting shortstop. I think we fans and the front office should be equally concerned about the present center fielder. Tuesday will be Hicks' 100th game as a Twin. Is anyone getting the vibe that Hicks will never be a decent hitter? I've said for a while that the best situation for the Twins is to have Hicks display competence as a major league hitter and center fielder and then trade him as soon as Buxton is ready. I maintain that Hicks will not hit enough to be a corner guy and one way or another he end up on another team as a center fielder (ceiling) or be Joe
Benson (high draft choice, great tools, couldn't hit) and struggle to find another big league gig (floor).

The Twins' offense has been surprisingly potent so far this year. So far, Hicks and Florimon haven't really joined the party. I'm at least now entertaining the notion that neither guy ever will.

#2 kab21

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 08:57 PM

I continue to be unimpressed by Hicks and continue to lower his ceiling that others keep touting.

#3 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 09:08 PM

I know its only a few months last year and less than a month this year, but I'm shocked at how he just doesn't seem like a ballplayer to me. I am very worried, even his defense has been pretty awful at times. And he just plain can't hit.
Some guys are late bloomers and need 1000 PA's before they start to figure it out. Hicks could be one of those guys, but the unfortunate part is that giving a guy who cant hit 1000 PA's takes a ton of patience.

#4 stringer bell

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 09:22 PM

Of the so-called five tools, the "hit tool" seems to me to be the hardest to project. Sometimes it is curve balls, sometimes it is high fastballs, sometimes it inability to adjust to a certain location, but some guys just never develop that tool, including very good athletes. Torii Hunter and Carlos Gomez are two other Twin center fielders who couldn't really hit until much later in their careers. Maybe Hicks will develop like one of those guys or maybe he'll hit like Rich Becker.

#5 twinsfaninsaudi

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 09:56 PM

Hicks has had several points in his career where he's had people heading for the exits on him only to pull them back at the las second. He's about getting there now in the majors. Personally, I still think he'll pan out.

#6 Old Twins Cap

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 09:59 PM

Almost a .300 OBP and he hasn't figured it out yet at the plate. I say, let him play. He's got a MLB body, arm and speed. He does look a little non-chalant on defense, and I have no idea about his desire to win. No way can Twins give up on someone that young. The league is full of players the Twins have given up on.

Concern? Sure. Even Mauer merits concern. But none of this is about giving up on what amounts to a "kid" that has all the tools to be a successful player.

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:32 PM

While my concern over Hicks is growing, I still think his age, physical tools, and solid (if unspectacular) minor league career warrant a long leash.

Florimon, on the other hand, has pretty much none of that going for him.

#8 drivlikejehu

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:52 PM

I'm fine with throwing him out there indefinitely since the Twins aren't contenders and don't have a meaningful alternative. But I don't think he can hit and doubt he is more than a 4th OF even in his prime.

#9 zchrz

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 01:20 AM

It may take some time but I think Hicks will be a good mlb player. In the minors he took awhile to adjust to a new league and then they pushed the issue and promoted him from AA. When he adjusts he has been a patient hitter with some pop, an ok on base threat, and a good to decent defender that can make up for minor mistakes with speed and a absolute cannon arm.

Last year we saw some of the pop but no patience, this year so far we are seeing the patience but no pop. I think those 2 collide at some point, his swing looks out of whack at the moment and he isn't generating good contact but he is working counts. When he is able to work counts and square up the ball I think Hicks will be a solid player.

He should provide a nice value as a corner outfield or trade piece.
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#10 kab21

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 08:34 AM

It may take some time but I think Hicks will be a good mlb player. In the minors he took awhile to adjust to a new league and then they pushed the issue and promoted him from AA. When he adjusts he has been a patient hitter with some pop, an ok on base threat, and a good to decent defender that can make up for minor mistakes with speed and a absolute cannon arm.

Last year we saw some of the pop but no patience, this year so far we are seeing the patience but no pop. I think those 2 collide at some point, his swing looks out of whack at the moment and he isn't generating good contact but he is working counts. When he is able to work counts and square up the ball I think Hicks will be a solid player.

He should provide a nice value as a corner outfield or trade piece.


People seem to forget that he was also fairly patient in April last year.

The problem is that at no time has he shown that he can hit the ball or avoid striking. Right now he's walking a lot so people can look at his .300ish OBP for encouragement. Last year he hit 6 HR's in one month which basically saved that entire dreadful month OPS wise. At some point he needs to actually start making solid contact with the ball regularly.

Right now I'm putting his realistic upside in the starting caliber player on a bad team. Carlos Gomez turned into a good player so anything is possible but Hicks has looked much worse than Gomez offensively.

#11 mike wants wins

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 08:39 AM

Summarizing everything I said yesterday......yes, yes it is.
Lighten up Francis....

#12 steve

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 08:57 AM

According to this guy here => http://smartpitcher.blogspot.com/ the time to worry about Hicks is now.

In brief:

Since 1961, Hicks has the 46th most plate appearances of any player with a sub-.200 career batting average. There are a lot of backup catchers in the list of 45 players ahead of Hicks. If the Twins continue to give him at-bats and he doesn't pull things together soon, he could find his way into the top 20 by the All-Star break.


BTW Drew Butera is #21.
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#13 UCLA_YANKEE_COLA

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 09:53 AM

There is no reason not to give him another season to see if he can improve. But at this point he looks like a pretty bad baseball player. Bad routes in the OF, bad AB's. At least he now throws it to the cut off guy sometimes.

#14 Siehbiscuit

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 11:25 AM

Having a good eye at the plate is great to see in a young player. But he can't hit the balls that are over the plate. He has to look to walk to get on base, because he sure isn't going to hit the ball.

#15 Willihammer

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 11:40 AM

There is no reason not to give him another season to see if he can improve. But at this point he looks like a pretty bad baseball player. Bad routes in the OF, bad AB's. At least he now throws it to the cut off guy sometimes.

Here's a reason - he's batting .492 on a .500 ballclub.

This lineup can't afford to have more than one Florimon in it. The whole rationale for keeping Florimon around is that "he doesn't need to hit if everybody else hits." Well, that isn't happening.

There are bright spots, but these two are black holes and if the Twins have any pretension about being competitive into August and September, they need to address one or, preferably, both positions ASAP.

#16 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:03 PM

According to this guy here => http://smartpitcher.blogspot.com/ the time to worry about Hicks is now.

In brief:

BTW Drew Butera is #21.


Interesting, although it should be noted those are full careers sub-.200. What would be more interesting is how many guys began their careers with 340+ AB of sub-.200 AVG like Hicks, and where they ended up. Or more generally, how guys responded to sub-.200 rookie seasons.

It was pretty easy to write off 2013 as a lost season, rushed to MLB, pressured by the leadoff spot, etc. But the small sample this year suggests that maybe Hicks just isn't much of an AVG hitter right now -- those guys exist, and unfortunately when they start their career that way, they are probably bench guys at best or are out of the league fairly quickly.

But I'm all for giving players chances, in lieu of better options, and Hicks certainly has more rope.

#17 mike wants wins

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:06 PM

Fangraphs chat had some information on this last year, no player that started as badly as Hicks has ever turned out to be "good"....but that comment (made by one of their staff, not a random fan) was buried in a weekly chat....so no idea the depth of the analysis that went into that.
Lighten up Francis....

#18 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:07 PM

Here's a reason - he's batting .492 on a .500 ballclub.

This lineup can't afford to have more than one Florimon in it. The whole rationale for keeping Florimon around is that "he doesn't need to hit if everybody else hits." Well, that isn't happening.

There are bright spots, but these two are black holes and if the Twins have any pretension about being competitive into August and September, they need to address one or, preferably, both positions ASAP.


If the team can only have one Pedro Florimon, then Aaron Hicks should be that Pedro Florimon.

#19 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:10 PM

Here's a reason - he's batting .492 on a .500 ballclub.

This lineup can't afford to have more than one Florimon in it. The whole rationale for keeping Florimon around is that "he doesn't need to hit if everybody else hits." Well, that isn't happening.

There are bright spots, but these two are black holes and if the Twins have any pretension about being competitive into August and September, they need to address one or, preferably, both positions ASAP.


Hadn't thought about our early competitiveness and how it could impact Hicks (and Florimon). I've gotten used to the Twins writing off seasons to rebuilding lately, and 2014 looked similar even with the new SP acquisitions.

If we can hang around .500 that certainly puts more pressure on the underperformers (and more pressure on the front office to replace them). Nunez and Fuld are pretty minor moves in that regard, but they do represent more April activity than the past few seasons, IIRC.

#20 twinscowboysbulls

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:24 PM

I am worried that he refuses to do something he apparently has worked hard at. Bunting for basehits.

He has been extremely unlucky (please don't SABR me here) it seems. The balls he has hit hard seem to find a glove. I'm also curious where the power he displayed went as well. I'm still a believer. I hope Fuld gets CF 3 starts every two weeks against RHP, give Hicks a little adjustment time without benching him, or sending him to AAA.

#21 afurry91

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:30 PM

Fangraphs chat had some information on this last year, no player that started as badly as Hicks has ever turned out to be "good"....but that comment (made by one of their staff, not a random fan) was buried in a weekly chat....so no idea the depth of the analysis that went into that.


Carlos Gomez

#22 mike wants wins

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:36 PM

Do we know Gomez was this bad? .....

http://www.fangraphs...=8&players=5297

but as I said, I have no idea how much depth went into the analysis, I was pointing out what someone said.....
Lighten up Francis....

#23 mike wants wins

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:37 PM

Feel free to ignore how bad he has been, if you want. Even if you can find 10 players that have done it in history, how likely is it that he becomes good after this start? If they are competitive, do you keep giving away at bats?
Lighten up Francis....

#24 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:57 PM

Fangraphs chat had some information on this last year, no player that started as badly as Hicks has ever turned out to be "good"....but that comment (made by one of their staff, not a random fan) was buried in a weekly chat....so no idea the depth of the analysis that went into that.


That's probably close to accurate, certainly during his epic early 2013 slump. And his possible similarity to early-career Hunter/Gomez is lessening as his struggles continue into 2014.

Dozier had a pretty comparable career start, OPS wise, and he didn't begin turning it around until almost 500 PA into his career (about 100 more than Hicks currently has). Of course, Dozier's turnaround was fairly unlikely too, largely attributed to some specific adjustments, and it was also accompanied by a shift to a slightly less demanding defensive position, and a shift in the shape of his offensive production (more power, more K's, less BA).

#25 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:01 PM

Carlos Gomez


Gomez actually had a decent offensive start with the Twins, which buoys his early career stats a bit. And if you factor in defense, Gomez was always useful even with the weak bat.

#26 tobi0040

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:02 PM

Do we know Gomez was this bad? .....

http://www.fangraphs...=8&players=5297

but as I said, I have no idea how much depth went into the analysis, I was pointing out what someone said.....


A ton of similarities here. Both came up at 22, CF, highly touted without a ton of sucess in the minors. Hicks had the one year that was pretty good, but not blowing you away.

Here are Gomez numbers in his first three years (1100 ab)

2007 - .232 avg/.592 OPS.
2008 - .258 avg/.656 OPS
2009 - .229 avg/ .624 OPS

Hicks (400 ab)

2013 - .192 avg/.597 OPS
2014 - .167 avg/.492 OPS

Here is the glaring difference. BABIP. Gomez had .273, .330, and .286. Hicks .241 and .233.

This suggests we should give Hicks more time. We don't want him becoming an all star somewhere else.

#27 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:09 PM

Per 500 PA, Fuld is a 1.4 rWAR player over his career, Hicks is 0.3. 2012 onward, though, the difference is more like half a win, though, and all defense.

Probably not enough to displace Hicks yet, although if early trends continue (Hicks playing poorly, team around .500, Fuld rebounding from career low OPS), it could be a move worth making.

#28 mike wants wins

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:10 PM

I never said stop playing him.....I said I'm worried about him. He also is a switch hitter, who takes the majority of his ABs from his weak side, unlike Gomez who didn't need to figure out how to fix two different approaches to hitting. He could be good. He could be great. Right now, he's not.
Lighten up Francis....

#29 Brad Swanson

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:17 PM

Interesting, although it should be noted those are full careers sub-.200. What would be more interesting is how many guys began their careers with 340+ AB of sub-.200 AVG like Hicks, and where they ended up. Or more generally, how guys responded to sub-.200 rookie seasons.

It was pretty easy to write off 2013 as a lost season, rushed to MLB, pressured by the leadoff spot, etc. But the small sample this year suggests that maybe Hicks just isn't much of an AVG hitter right now -- those guys exist, and unfortunately when they start their career that way, they are probably bench guys at best or are out of the league fairly quickly.

But I'm all for giving players chances, in lieu of better options, and Hicks certainly has more rope.


I can't compare the first 340 PAs of a player's career because Baseball Reference's play index is only so awesome. But...

Here are 157 players who had a sub-.225 batting average as a rookie getting at least 250 PA. They are then sorted by their career OPS. Obviously, a .225 BA is much better than .192, but they are statistically comparable when you factor eras and BABIPs and other factors that a small sample cannot necessarily capture.

http://www.baseball-...re.cgi?id=UUwfT

There are some great names on this list, some not-so-great names and Dave McCarty. Hicks's start is not ideal, but he can pull out of it. Hicks's ceiling might be a .250 BA, but if he can bat .250/.340/.430 or something along those lines, he could be a really valuable player.

I'm concerned, but I'd give him through May. The Twins are going to battle to be a .500 team this year, they should find out for certain if Hicks is worth reserving a roster spot for in 2015 when their aspirations are much higher.

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#30 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:30 PM

A ton of similarities here. Both came up at 22, CF, highly touted without a ton of sucess in the minors.


Don't mean to pick nits, but Gomez was 21 when he debuted in the majors with the Mets, and 22 his first season with the Twins. Hicks was 23 and a half on opening day and was 24 a week after the season ended. That's a significant difference. Hicks also had nearly 1000 more plate appearances in the minors than Gomez did prior to reaching the majors.

Hicks' babip initially looks like bad luck that will eventually even out, especially for a fast hitter who should scare up a few extra hits by legging out grounders.

But the complete lack of power suggests that even when he's making contact, it's not the good kind. That's backed up by a line drive rate (less than 15%) and a ground ball rate more than double his fly ball rate, and a GB/FB ratio nearly twice what it was last season.