• 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. Big City's Avatar
      Big City -
      I might be more bullish on Mastroianni than most but I was actually looking forward to seeing Darin play everyday. Worst case scenario he regresses and Hicks gets the call after June 1, thus saving a year of team control. Best case scenario, the emergence of Mastroianni makes Willingham and Doumit that much more expendable and also enhances his own trade value.

      I just don't see the rush in promoting Hicks. We've got a superb core of 2014 players that could all hit the majors at exactly the same time. In the mean time, sign Drew, Marcum, and Brett Myers and we should be set.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      If they all come up in 2014, they are all rookies together, with little experience. I do not see the point in not having your best players in the majors. How did keeping trout in the minors work out for LA last year? Try to win, see if you get lucky.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      If they all come up in 2014, they are all rookies together, with little experience. I do not see the point in not having your best players in the majors. How did keeping trout in the minors work out for LA last year? Try to win, see if you get lucky.
      I'm not convinced Hicks is the "best" player or major league ready. Last year's injuries forced the Twins to put their "best" starters on the mound. How did that work?
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Hmm, so many points to consider. Arbitration eligibility--penny wise and pound foolish--and sends a message to all draftees that if they sign with MN they will get screwed irrespective of how well they perform. Somebody will remember that when the Twins draft oh so early for the next several years--and refuse to sign!
      Only one CF. Yes that would be a problem. Though I'm confident that concern was addressed when both Span and Revere were shopped.
      Benson? Back in '07 the Twins refused to give Span a september callup because they deemed his AAA season (~.264 BAVG) wasn't worthy of a callup and further was deemed he "just wasn't plain good enough for the MLs", hence the insistence on a CF in the Santana trade. Then the sham "competition" for the CF job in ST '08. To sum up, given Span's '07 season and what happened it is incredible to me that the Twins can overlook Benson's wretched ML experience in '11 and his entire '12 season and place him on the Active Roster out of ST '13.
      I see two scenarios: a)Hicks becomes the starting CF out of ST and Mastroianni is the 4th OF or b)Mastroiannis is the starting CF, Hicks gets sent to Rochester, and a "Jason Repko"-type player (maybe even him!) is signed to be the 4th OF. I think a) is better unless the Twins are convinced Masroianni will succeed to the same level as Revere--so they can trade Mastroianni in W '13 and receive a return similar to the Revere trade! Then its Hicks' job.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      If they all come up in 2014, they are all rookies together, with little experience. I do not see the point in not having your best players in the majors. How did keeping trout in the minors work out for LA last year? Try to win, see if you get lucky.
      I'm not convinced Hicks is the "best" player or major league ready. Last year's injuries forced the Twins to put their "best" starters on the mound. How did that work?
      Their "best" starters were the ones that were hurt all season (Pavano and Baker), and the ones that they were counting on that were just plain terrible (Blackburn, Liriano, Marquis).

      Other than Hendriks, none of the other pitchers the Twins rolled out there were considered to be prospects. "Best" starters is relative considering the dearth of starting pitching depth. If the Twins dipped down to AA or even High-A last year for starters the results couldn't have been much worse.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by shs_59 View Post
      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.
      Based on what? You're being awfully specific and authoritative about what is clearly a complete guess.

      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      While plenty of Twins Daily people might be excited to see Hicks on Opening Day, he's hardly the widely known phenom, either in terms of talent or, more importantly in this case, reputation, that Joe Mauer was when he arrived in the majors. Unless Hicks tears it up from the start, his presence may backfire with respect to drawing casual fans.
      If the Twins play Hicks up in the media as a spectacular athlete and one of their best prospects, who was basically the reason they felt comfortable trading both Span and Revere (which is all true), I don't think they'd have a hard time building excitement around him. No casual fans knew who Gomez was when the team acquired him and he became extremely popular in '08 despite posting lousy numbers. People like coming out to the park and watching young, athletic players with legitimate promise.

      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      I'm not convinced Hicks is the "best" player or major league ready. Last year's injuries forced the Twins to put their "best" starters on the mound. How did that work?
      This comparison is just... wow. You realize that Hicks was rated as a top 20 prospect in baseball a couple years ago, right?
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      How did keeping trout in the minors work out for LA last year? Try to win, see if you get lucky.
      Very likely cost them a playoff spot...

      Can't imagine us being in the same spot...but yeah, it cost them
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      If they all come up in 2014, they are all rookies together, with little experience. I do not see the point in not having your best players in the majors. How did keeping trout in the minors work out for LA last year? Try to win, see if you get lucky.
      I'm not convinced Hicks is the "best" player or major league ready. Last year's injuries forced the Twins to put their "best" starters on the mound. How did that work?
      Their "best" starters were the ones that were hurt all season (Pavano and Baker), and the ones that they were counting on that were just plain terrible (Blackburn, Liriano, Marquis).

      Other than Hendriks, none of the other pitchers the Twins rolled out there were considered to be prospects. "Best" starters is relative considering the dearth of starting pitching depth. If the Twins dipped down to AA or even High-A last year for starters the results couldn't have been much worse.
      I actually think they could have. That's the point. "Best" is relative (even to injuries). They dipped down to AA for a SS, who had a similar season in AA to Hicks, that didn't work out either. As I pointed out in a previous post, the Twins have actually had very little success evaluating players in AA as major league ready in recent years and there's really no good reason to call Hicks up at this point.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I do not know if he is the best. My point is that if he is, he should be up.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post

      This comparison is just... wow. You realize that Hicks was rated as a top 20 prospect in baseball a couple years ago, right?

      Fair enough., and I agree it was extreme, but I was referring the idea of what "best player in the organization" means especially in reference to major league ready (IE just because he might be the best CF prospect they have doesn't mean he's MLB ready). Prospect ranking is nice, but I'd like to see more evidence, personally.

      I'd just like to be convinced that he's ready by more than one season in AA. It's way too much like the Dozier argument (and no he wasn't a top prospect either) to me, but calling guys up from AA hasn't worked well for the Twins. Edit: A lot of people said the same thing about Benson after he played well in AA.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Quote Originally Posted by raindog View Post
      Waiting a few weeks to get an extra year of service time is absolutely a good idea. And it's not like he couldn't use some time at AAA.

      As for Benson, it's been said he also played through some injuries last year, accounting for some of his struggles. Maybe Seth knows a little more about that.

      EDIT: As much as I like Benson, I just came across this piece of trash:http:/www.fannation.com/truth_and_ru...2_a7&eref=sihp
      O my. The only thing that Trout and Benson have in common is that they are white and outfielders...that is where the comparisons stop. Mike trout should sue for libel from this story. Dumb.
    1. andrewberg's Avatar
      andrewberg -
      There are legitimate concerns about Hicks. He has advanced reasonably well through the minors but has been slow to acclimate at each step. While it is encouraging that he is growing and making adaptations, that is not the profile of a player I would want to aggressively push through the system.
    1. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      Maybe someone can explain why there are 72 comments but suddenly I can read only one? I had the issue earlier today but later it appeared to be fixed.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by OldManWinter View Post
      Maybe someone can explain why there are 72 comments but suddenly I can read only one? I had the issue earlier today but later it appeared to be fixed.
      There is a thread about this is the Questions section, although nothing was able to be resolved. I have been running into the problem a fair amount but it's very intermittent. Sometimes I have to reload the page a half dozen times before it works, then it just goes away.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      I'd just like to be convinced that he's ready by more than one season in AA. It's way too much like the Dozier argument (and no he wasn't a top prospect either) to me, but calling guys up from AA hasn't worked well for the Twins. Edit: A lot of people said the same thing about Benson after he played well in AA.
      Every player is a different case. Benson had major strike zone control issues that made him a more questionable bet than Hicks to acclimate quickly to the majors. Dozier is a bad example, because he was never a top prospect -- arguably not even a very good prospect.

      You mention that the Twins haven't had success calling guys up directly from Double-A, but really they haven't had much success recently calling up players from anywhere. They just haven't developed a lot of good hitters lately. Guys are generally going to take a while to adjust to big-league competition regardless of which level they come from (see Plouffe, who had played 3 years in Triple-A and still struggled mightily as a rook).

      But the best way to learn to hit major-league pitching is to face major-league pitching. As much as people crap on the team's decision to bring Parmelee up directly from Double-A, who's to say his immense success at Rochester wasn't related to that experience? Either you hack it in the bigs, or you figure out what you need to work on, and that -- to me -- is the purpose of Triple-A.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      But the best way to learn to hit major-league pitching is to face major-league pitching. As much as people crap on the team's decision to bring Parmelee up directly from Double-A, who's to say his immense success at Rochester wasn't related to that experience? Either you hack it in the bigs, or you figure out what you need to work on, and that -- to me -- is the purpose of Triple-A.
      But this also goes back to your thoughts on Benson... Was calling him up from AA for a September right? Were his struggles in AAA last year related to that experience?

      I just think all prospects are different and need to be handled on an individual basis. No one knows whether or not Aaron Hicks is big-league ready than the Twins brass, and because of the whole human factor, no one really knows.

      If they go with Hicks, I will be really excited as I think he's got a chance to be a very solid major leaguer, maybe even play in a couple of All Star games. If they go with Mastroianni, I'll certainly understand that too. If they go with Benson, I will also be excited because it wasn't long ago (9-10 months ago), that we (many) had him ranked higher than we rank Hicks now and I for one would love to see him reach his immense potential. It's a no-lose situation really.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      If they go with Mastroianni, I'll certainly understand that too.
      That's the one I won't understand. Not as a starter, even for two months.
    1. greenland on the map's Avatar
      greenland on the map -
      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?

      If they put these guys out there and sign Delmon to play left center, I will definitely get some season tickets.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      On waiting until super 2 passes...

      The new CBA changed the threshold and the date will be later than June 1. Mid market teams like the Twins should not concern themselves with a player getting to arbitration a year early. If they perform to the point where they become expensive. Be thankful and pay them. The Twins can afford it.

      On calling him up too early...

      Yes, he will struggle. If he doesn't have the character and confidence to handle it and improve, he will never be a long term major league starter no matter how long they wait. This isn't like bringing up a kid right out of the draft. If Benson's poor performance last year was related to struggles in his brief September call up, he will never make it in the major leagues. I don't believe they were related.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      I'd just like to be convinced that he's ready by more than one season in AA. It's way too much like the Dozier argument (and no he wasn't a top prospect either) to me, but calling guys up from AA hasn't worked well for the Twins. Edit: A lot of people said the same thing about Benson after he played well in AA.
      Every player is a different case. Benson had major strike zone control issues that made him a more questionable bet than Hicks to acclimate quickly to the majors. Dozier is a bad example, because he was never a top prospect -- arguably not even a very good prospect.

      You mention that the Twins haven't had success calling guys up directly from Double-A, but really they haven't had much success recently calling up players from anywhere. They just haven't developed a lot of good hitters lately. Guys are generally going to take a while to adjust to big-league competition regardless of which level they come from (see Plouffe, who had played 3 years in Triple-A and still struggled mightily as a rook).

      But the best way to learn to hit major-league pitching is to face major-league pitching. As much as people crap on the team's decision to bring Parmelee up directly from Double-A, who's to say his immense success at Rochester wasn't related to that experience? Either you hack it in the bigs, or you figure out what you need to work on, and that -- to me -- is the purpose of Triple-A.
      I completely agree with what you're saying about each player is an individual, and I'm not saying he should wallow in AAA. ML at-bats would be good for him, but handing him the starting job could be setting him up for failure.

      Regardless of whether or not Dozier was a top prospect (and I agree that's a big difference), he hit very well at AA and it sounded like they thought he was ready from a scouting perspective. He was older at the time, and one would have thought that would have allowed him to handle it, maturity wise.

      Good point about the Twins not really having success bringing anyone up from anywhere. It's a fair point though they've had more that stuck after a stint in AAA than directly. Whether or not that works for Hicks, who knows, but it's hard for me to trust the Twins judgement about a player being ready. They haven't talked about it with regard to Hicks, but moving Revere would indicate that.

      You mentioned that Hicks was more ready defensively, but I'm curious what is it that makes you so confident he's ML ready? Is it the single season in AA, his change in mechanics, the top prospect status he once had where he now gained ground again, or something else you've heard? Would you promote Arcia as well, too?
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