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Time to be concerned about Aaron Hicks?

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#31 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:37 PM

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


Well, the glaring difference would actually be defense. Gomez rated very well at the time defensively, offsetting virtually all of his shortcomings with the bat to make him an average overall CF; Hicks looks to be an average glove at best so far, which makes him about replacement level (or worse).

Also, Gomez was significantly younger. Hicks debuted last spring at age 23 years (and 6 months). Before his 23rd birthday, Gomez already had a full MLB season of 77 OPS+ and 2.1 rWAR under his belt, plus his partial Mets season of similar stellar defense. Hicks also had 4 full years of full-season minor league ball, versus Gomez's 2.

Finally, low BABIP does not automatically equal bad luck -- it could just mean a lower AVG hitter. That Hicks' low BABIP is continuing into 2014 isn't a good sign.

Although I agree, too early to pull the plug, given the alternatives. If he doesn't get going by June, though, establishing himself in AAA might be the best way to salvage his career?

#32 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:48 PM

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.


Thanks!

But while .225 may be statistically comparable to .192, some of those .225 guys were hitting for serious power too. Actually, most of the guys near the top of that list were low-AVG sluggers. Mike Schmidt batted .192 as a rookie just like Hicks, but he clubbed 18 HR and had a 92 OPS+. Buhner hit .215 with a 99 OPS+, Bonds .223 with a 103 OPS+, etc.

If Hicks had shown that kind of power last year (or at any time in his pro career), I think he'd have a much longer leash. As it is, his leash is already lengthened a bit by his walk rate, but when that only brings your OPS+ up to 61, it's still not a real long leash.

#33 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:49 PM

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.

As spycake noted, the top half of the list contains some of the most notorious swing-and-miss power hitters of their eras. Also, the bottom half of the list contains a whole bunch of hitters whose eras were less offense-friendly than the one that Hicks is playing in.

And while Hicks certainly seemed to have been somewhat snake-bitten with regard to BABIP last season, he's lagging in that regard this year primarily due to the fact that he's putting the ball on the ground three out of every five times he makes contact.

Also, while I understand the rationale for raising the average to .225 to expand the number of possible comps, the simple fact is that .200 is an unforgiving, hard threshold in most franchises, and batting .190 instead of .225 is a much greater impediment to sticking in the majors compared to, say .210, than a 20 point spread that doesn't bracket the .200 cutoff would.

In other words, there's a reason .200 has a name, and .225 and .210 do not.

That said, yes, he should have until at least the end of May (if not longer) to get it in gear, regardless of whatever veneer of competitiveness the team may still have by then.

Edited by LaBombo, 22 April 2014 - 02:03 PM.


#34 tobi0040

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:50 PM

Well, the glaring difference would actually be defense. Gomez rated very well at the time defensively, offsetting virtually all of his shortcomings with the bat to make him an average overall CF; Hicks looks to be an average glove at best so far, which makes him about replacement level (or worse).

Also, Gomez was significantly younger. Hicks debuted last spring at age 23 years (and 6 months). Before his 23rd birthday, Gomez already had a full MLB season of 77 OPS+ and 2.1 rWAR under his belt, plus his partial Mets season of similar stellar defense. Hicks also had 4 full years of full-season minor league ball, versus Gomez's 2.

Finally, low BABIP does not automatically equal bad luck -- it could just mean a lower AVG hitter. That Hicks' low BABIP is continuing into 2014 isn't a good sign.

Although I agree, too early to pull the plug, given the alternatives. If he doesn't get going by June, though, establishing himself in AAA might be the best way to salvage his career?


One of the biggest knocks on Hicks has been missing the cut off, I remember Gomez doing that regularly with us. I am not suggesting Hicks has his range and frankly, for the purposes of this I was just looking at offense anyway. Here is Hicks BABIP in the minors, .367, .303, .359, .346, .308, .346, .314. I get that one could hit balls pitched by minor leaguers harder than major leaguers, but that is a huge gap from what we have seen thus far.

#35 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:59 PM

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


Looking at this list again, Michael Saunders looks to be the best of those remotely comparable to Hicks in skill set / performance. Maybe Brady Anderson. But both of them had more consistent success in the minors than Hicks, and arguably better early MLB results too. And Brady Anderson was kind of surprise late bloomer at age 28 -- certainly more of an exception rather than the rule, which is was a positive Hicks career might be too.

#36 TheLeviathan

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:11 PM

One of the biggest knocks on Hicks has been missing the cut off, I remember Gomez doing that regularly with us. I am not suggesting Hicks has his range and frankly, for the purposes of this I was just looking at offense anyway. Here is Hicks BABIP in the minors, .367, .303, .359, .346, .308, .346, .314. I get that one could hit balls pitched by minor leaguers harder than major leaguers, but that is a huge gap from what we have seen thus far.


It would be easier to compile a list of what Hicks does well in the field. (Hint: It ain't much)

That LD% and GB/FB ratio tell me his BABIP has far more to do with weak contact than bad luck.

#37 Brad Swanson

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:20 PM

Looking at this list again, Michael Saunders looks to be the best of those remotely comparable to Hicks in skill set / performance. Maybe Brady Anderson. But both of them had more consistent success in the minors than Hicks, and arguably better early MLB results too. And Brady Anderson was kind of surprise late bloomer at age 28 -- certainly more of an exception rather than the rule, which is was a positive Hicks career might be too.


If I had more time, I'd look to see which players shared Hicks's pedigree (1st round pick, top 100 prospect, etc) because I think that pedigree still works in his favor, at least for a couple more seasons. Most of the guys on that list are not former high-round picks, I would guess.

As for power, Hicks did slug .460 as a 22-year-old in AA in 2012. That's not superstar power, but it's really good for a would-be CF. His isolated power in a truly disappointing rookie season still ranked 149 out of 276 MLB players with 300 or more PAs. Again, not great, but power was actually one of the few things that I thought wasn't a complete negative for Hicks in 2013.

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#38 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:30 PM

It's odd that Hunter and Revere's names have come up so frequently, and yet there's been no mention of two other former Twins outfielders, Rich Becker and Bobby Kielty.

Yes, Kielty was less athletic than Hicks and not a center fielder, but they were both switch hitters who were vastly (for Kielty, historically, it turns out) better from one side of the plate, and they were also low-average hitters who struggled to make contact despite being patient and adept at drawing walks.

Here's a link to an article about the relative rarity of switch hitters dropping switch hitting at the major league level. There are a few notable names (including Becker), but it's a pretty short list.

Then there's another one specifically about why the bleep Kielty never gave up switch hitting despite the largest switch hitter platoon split in history, and his weak side being the more frequently used left-handed side. He never stopped switch hitting despite lingering in AAA until age 35.

#39 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:38 PM

If I had more time, I'd look to see which players shared Hicks's pedigree (1st round pick, top 100 prospect, etc) because I think that pedigree still works in his favor, at least for a couple more seasons.

But the offensive bar rises to 'corner outfielder' the day Buxton enters the lineup as a center fielder. That may not be this year, but it won't be two full seasons from now. Not unless something goes so wrong with Buxton that it positively dwarfs the disappointment with Hicks so far.

So Hicks will have to improve considerably at the plate just to tread water in a corner spot, and he'll need to basically become a completely new hitter to be a real asset. It could happen, and there's no reason not to keep sending him out there and hoping for the best, but it doesn't look good.

#40 Siehbiscuit

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 03:00 PM

But the offensive bar rises to 'corner outfielder' the day Buxton enters the lineup as a center fielder. That may not be this year, but it won't be two full seasons from now. Not unless something goes so wrong with Buxton that it positively dwarfs the disappointment with Hicks so far.

So Hicks will have to improve considerably at the plate just to tread water in a corner spot, and he'll need to basically become a completely new hitter to be a real asset. It could happen, and there's no reason not to keep sending him out there and hoping for the best, but it doesn't look good.


Keith Law said in the off-season (paraphrasing) that when Buxton is ready to come North that Hicks (if he's become an everyday caliber player) will be shopped. His ability to play centerfield will make him valuable to other teams. Law said that Hicks will never have the bat to justify putting in a corner OF position.

#41 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 03:12 PM

Keith Law said in the off-season (paraphrasing) that when Buxton is ready to come North that Hicks (if he's become an everyday caliber player) will be shopped. His ability to play centerfield will make him valuable to other teams. Law said that Hicks will never have the bat to justify putting in a corner OF position.

Agreed. He's much more likely to be moved to another team than to a corner of the Twins outfield as a starter. But the chance that he'll bring something valuable in return is almost entirely based on whether he can improve the quantity and quality of left-handed contact. Expecting that not to happen and hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

#42 Mike Frasier Law

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 12:48 PM

Hicks never swings the bat. I had no idea until this afternoon, playing around on Fangraphs. (o-swing = swing percentage at pitches out of zone, z-swing = swing percentage at pitches in zone, and swing = swing percentage at all pitches)

2013:
o-swing 22.1%
z-swing 55.5%
swing 39.7%

2014
o-swing 18.5%
z-swing 54%
swing 35.8%

to put that in context, of qualified hitters in 2013, here's the range:
o-swing 20% (Votto) to 49.6% (AJ)
z-swing 52.2% (Prado) to 85.7% (Freeman)
swing 37.3% (Carpenter) to 60.7% (AJ)

He NEVER swings. I don't know how to find these stats for MILB, but I'd be curious to see how this compares to his A and AA seasons.