• Hicks Positioned to Take the Leap

    After the Twins parted with franchise mainstay Torii Hunter back in 2007, they needed to make a decision about who would take his place in the middle of the outfield. Finding a veteran placeholder was an option, but instead they ultimately decided to go straight to Hunter's heir apparent: a raw but tremendously athletic kid acquired in the Johan Santana trade.

    Carlos Gomez was clearly rough around the edges when he assumed the important roles of center fielder and leadoff hitter in 2008. At the time, he had played only 94 games above Double-A, including a brief stint in Triple-A and an overmatched MLB debut.

    Yet, the Twins were seemingly eager to get an early look at their future, and to give fans a glimpse as well. Gomez was the kind of special talent that could captivate folks at the ballpark and soften the blow of losing a player as popular as Hunter. He was exciting.

    Gomez never realized his potential in Minnesota, but midway through that '08 campaign, it was another young player who came up and made a big rookie splash. Denard Span would supplant Gomez as leadoff hitter by the end of the year, and as full-time center fielder a year later. Span held those designations up until a couple weeks ago when the Twins traded him for prospect Alex Meyer.

    Span's apparent predecessor, Ben Revere, was surprisingly moved the next week, putting the Twins in a similar position to 2008. Center field is now wide open, and the club has a choice of either filling it with a stopgap (Darin Mastroianni? Free agent?) or transitioning directly to the future with Aaron Hicks.

    Hicks hasn't played above the Double-A level, where had a breakout campaign in 2012, but this organization has shown a willingness to push its preferred prospects right into the majors with little or no seasoning in Triple-A if there's an opening. We've seen it recently with the likes of Ben Revere, Chris Parmelee and Brian Dozier.

    Hicks is a year older than Gomez was when he took the reigns in center, and has a more well rounded skill set. Whereas Gomez had shown poor plate discipline throughout the minors, Hicks has consistently excelled in that department with a career .379 on-base percentage, including .384 last year in his first turn at Double-A.

    Renowned for his above-average range and outstanding throwing arm, Hicks is ready to handle center field defensively in the majors. Whether the Twins will be willing to give him a chance depends on where they feel his offensive game is at, but if they're looking for someone that they can plug into the top of the lineup with Span and Revere gone, Hicks' on-base skills alone seem worthy of a gamble. Certainly his overall offensive game has to be viewed as more polished than Gomez's when he was given the nod.

    This organization is obviously very high on Hicks. Ryan wouldn't have been willing to deal both Span and Revere if that weren't the case. Do they believe Hicks is ready now? The more I read, and the more I hear, the more I believe they do. Barring a meltdown in spring training, I think the former first-round pick is the front-runner for the center field job.

    And fans should be very excited about that indeed.
    This article was originally published in blog: Hicks Positioned to Take the Leap started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 84 Comments
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      So don't even try to be good by putting the best players out there because they cannot win it all? They built the stadium to retain their current players. If hicks is the beat option, he should he out there.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsnorth49 View Post
      If he performs up to expectations then they'll look to extend him in a couple of years anyway. If he can play now, he should play.
      Let's set aside the fact that Hicks had a good, but not great, year at New Britain, and is hardly a solid bet to be a plus player on Opening Day. If you bring him up you're still just trading two months of Aaron Hicks the prospect for a year of Aaron Hicks the seasoned major leaguer in his prime, and hopefully playing for a contender instead of a rebuilder.
      Hicks, by almost all objective standards for measuring the ability to play the game of baseball, did indeed have a great year in 2012.
      .286/.384/.460; 21 2B; 11 3B; 13 HR; 61 RBIs (he served as leadoff hitter the last half of the season); 79 BB; 116 K; 32 SB; 11 CS. He accumulated 472 at-bats and scored an even 100 runs.

      How about his stats when compared to the Eastern League: His .286 average is good for 15th in the league. The 11 triples are tied for first in the league, and the 100 runs are solidly in first place in the entire league. Hicks tied for first in walks, was third in stolen bases, and eighth in on-base percentage.

      His defense was already major league ready going into 2012.

      I wrote a little more about his 2012 season here, if anyone cares to read. In any event, I'd call it a great year. Very, very solid numbers across the board.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I think he'll get a chance right away. I think you're right about it being his job to lose. Benson or Mastro could beat him out. But I expect him to win the job out of Spring Training. He won't make the team if he doesn't win the starting job. But I expect him to win the starting job.

      Here is a complete list of top position player prospects they have promoted directly from AA:

      Mauer
      Revere
      Benson
      Parmelee
      Dozier

      Not all of those guys stayed up. But the guys who were drafted in the first round stayed up. Also note: Hicks was the highest drafted position player since Mauer (16th overall). From the time he was drafted until the time they signed Sano, he was by far the best position player in the system. I think it's fair to say the really want him to win the job out of spring training.
      Of those on the list, I think the only one who was promoted from AA and "stuck" and that's Mauer.

      Revere spent plenty of time in AAA before becoming a "permanent" MLB player, and I assume he'll . Parmelee was sent back down to crush AAA before being called back up this season and while he should be able to stick around that remains to be proven. Benson got his first taste of the majors from AA but was that was just for roster expansion and he's struggled in the minors ever since. Dozier actually started in AAA before he proved what many of us said, that he wasn't ML worthy yet.

      So, of that list, only Mauer, one of the top 3-4 hitters this organization has ever seen, stuck from AA. I'm not sure Hicks is in the same category and I hope we don't see what happened to Dozier, a shattering of confidence happen to him.
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      I am just fine with letting Hicks get some experience in AAA before being called up. Let Mastroianni and Benson fight it out for a couple months.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      I will place my faith in Gardy and TR. If Hicks opens the season... I'd understand... If he is delayed for the Arb Clock... I'd understand.

      Benson... Has to turn it around a little in the minors first. In my opinion. A opinion based on very little eyeballing.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      I will place my faith in Gardy and TR.
      Hmmm. Okay
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      He had a top-5 OPS in the Eastern League as one of the younger players, and he played excellent defense in center field. I think your standard for greatness must be pretty high.
      Shouldn't standards be REALLY high when bringing up an AA player solely to fill a need? He struck out in a fifth of his at bats, and he'll see a big drop in average if he can't sustain that .350-ish BABIP. Yes, he was very good, but let's face it: nobody would be crying foul if he started the year in AAA had the Twins hung on to Span and/or Revere until the 2013 trade deadline.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsnorth49 View Post
      If he performs up to expectations then they'll look to extend him in a couple of years anyway. If he can play now, he should play.
      Let's set aside the fact that Hicks had a good, but not great, year at New Britain, and is hardly a solid bet to be a plus player on Opening Day. If you bring him up you're still just trading two months of Aaron Hicks the prospect for a year of Aaron Hicks the seasoned major leaguer in his prime, and hopefully playing for a contender instead of a rebuilder.

      If this were the Yankees, then yes, you could just buy that year back with an extension without another thought. But it's the Twins, and if you extend him you'll be paying a premium to do so and taking money from a finite pool. The loss of that money could very likely result in the loss of a veteran or a budget issue that prevents a free agent signing.
      I am setting aside the facts that it may be too early, talent wise. I'm just saying the decision about whether he is or isn't, shouldn't be about money.

      Paying at a "premium" is pretty speculative, if Hicks lives up to the hype then the team should decide on the premium themselves by offering an early extension, instead of arbitration setting the price, either way they are going to pay. I just don't believe a move like that is going to cost the team in the future the same way you seem to think it will.

      The whole issue is hardly that big a deal though, would I like to see him play? Yes, would it cause a bunch of contrived angst if I had to wait for two months? No.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      I will place my faith in Gardy and TR.
      Hmmm. Okay
      Its not that hard to do... I'm able to read stats and scouting reports. The majority of scouting reports that I read come from sources outside the organization.

      It's really easy for me to place faith in Twins talent evaluators who work and watch the players everyday. They have much much more information than anything I can cobble together.

      Have they made mistakes... Yes... A bunch of them... So has every other organization. I'm just not comfortable making definitive statements with the amount of knowledge that I have and if I can't place faith in our staff... Where can I turn?
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      I will place my faith in Gardy and TR.
      Hmmm. Okay
      As opposed to who? Sorry rhetorical question.
    1. Yoshii's Avatar
      Yoshii -
      + 1
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      if I can't place faith in our staff... Where can I turn?
      The bottle? :-)
    1. Yoshii's Avatar
      Yoshii -
      Quote Originally Posted by Otwins View Post
      Here is what you willl hear about Hicks when he is sent down- He needs triple A AB's - we have three young centerfielders and we need Hicks to play everday - He needs to work on his __________ so we sent him to triple A. He will be the centerfielder an hour after the full year of service date passes. That is usually around June 1st. No way out of spring training.
      + 1
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      if I can't place faith in our staff... Where can I turn?
      The bottle? :-)
      I did that... I'm a happy drunk... It only raised my sunny disposition.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      if I can't place faith in our staff... Where can I turn?
      The bottle? :-)
      I did that... I'm a happy drunk... It only raised my sunny disposition.
      If you look at it, Benson or Hicks will have to be with the team. We only have one guy on the 25 man that can play CF
    1. righty8383's Avatar
      righty8383 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post

      If you look at it, Benson or Hicks will have to be with the team. We only have one guy on the 25 man that can play CF
      Wouldn't it be fun to have Willingham in left, Parm in center, and Doumit in right?
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by righty8383 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post

      If you look at it, Benson or Hicks will have to be with the team. We only have one guy on the 25 man that can play CF
      Wouldn't it be fun to have Willingham in left, Parm in center, and Doumit in right?
      That would be interesting :-)
    1. shs_59's Avatar
      shs_59 -
      I'm not saying Hicks shouldn't be the front-runner for the CF job in and after ST.

      I'm saying it would be a catostrophic mistake (potentially) to hand Hicks the CF job out of ST.

      Send Him down to AAA let him Earn his way up, and even if he doesn't (playing poorly) call him up in August or September for good.
      Eric Hosmer is a decent and one of the latest of MANY examples. ............ in the season which the Royals debuted Hosmer he was actually in AAA out of ST for 1 little month in April where he DESTROYED AAA pitching, they called him up tooo early (I thought) around May 1st. He then went on to MURDER Major League pitching (for the most part) but in the parts of 2 years since he has MASSIVELY struggled and they might of ruined him because of the mistake.

      Hicks to Rochester Pleasse Terry Ryan and Co !!!!!!!!!
    1. shs_59's Avatar
      shs_59 -
      I guarantee you another thing Nick.

      If Hicks is playing in Minnesota in April of 2013 instead of April 2014.

      I predict he'll hitt about .220/310/380

      That is not acceptable. And I wouldn't be shocked if he did a little worse. He's Not Ready Now. I firmly believe it.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by shs_59 View Post
      I'm not saying Hicks shouldn't be the front-runner for the CF job in and after ST.

      I'm saying it would be a catostrophic mistake (potentially) to hand Hicks the CF job out of ST.
      I'm confused, he should be the front runner but he shouldn't be?

      Catastrophic? Really?
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