Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • What lies ahead for Aaron Hicks?

    Congratulations, Mr. Hicks. You are going where few Minnesota Twins minor leaguers have gone before: Straight to the Opening Day starting lineup.

    Since the opening of the Metrodome in 1982, there have been just seven players in the Minnesota starting lineup to jump to from the minors to the Opening Day lineup: Jim Eisenreich, Chuck Knoblauch, Marty Cordova, Chad Allen, Cristian Guzman, Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

    While all of those aforementioned players produced strong numbers in the minor leagues, they faced increasingly challenging competition in the first season as the dossier on their strengths and weaknesses grew. Some -- like Knoblauch, Cordova and Mauer -- adjusted well. Others did not.

    This is a story from a free ebook that TwinsDaily is publishing on Opening Day that previews the Minnesota Twins 2013 season. To get your free copy, just make sure you follow @TwinsDaily on Twitter or Like our Facebook page.

    Why is it that players can seem so destined for greatness based on their minor league track records, struggle once promoted to the ultimate level?

    For starters, there is a lack of knowledge in the minor leagues which favors the hitters. Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway explained to the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson exactly how difficult it is to create a strategy for minor league hitters.

    “Going into a game in the minors, you don’t know the hitters,” said the Red Sox catcher. “You’re kind of blind. In the big leagues, you have a game plan of how you want to go about it.”

    In the minors there are no Pitchf/x graphs or extensive collection of video to determine how to approach a particular hitter. There are no advanced scouts marking down every observation on how to best exploit a hitter’s weaknesses for the upcoming series.

    Players who have quality approach at the plate often see a fleeting rush of success at the major league level prior to reports circulating among the clubs. Teams will attack the strike zone with strikes. They will fire fastballs in fastball counts. Only once it becomes clear that a young player proves he is very capable of handling that assortment do pitchers start to pick around the plate and breaking off more benders when a fastball is expected.

    Then it is up to the hitter to make the adjustment.

    In many ways, what will be awaiting Hicks is the same process that both Chris Parmelee and Brian Dozier faced in 2012.

    When Parmelee came up in September 2011, he was punishing the ball all over the field. He saw few off-speed offerings in fastball counts. Teams rarely challenged him up-and-away. This performance continued into spring training but opponents began to cultivate a different game plan during the regular season and he scuffled more, only to be sent back to Rochester for additional tooling.

    Similarly, Dozier had some immediate success by driving plenty of fastballs to left field. That is, until teams picked up on his pull-happy tendency and moved their target to the outer-half of the zone. The same hitter who had once drew walks in 10% of his minor league plate appearances, was only able to finesse a free pass in 5% of his MLB plate appearances. Unable to adjust, Dozier’s numbers continued southward and in August, Dozier was headed eastward to Rochester.

    Hicks’ gaudy minor league walk rate does not necessarily mean that he is a strike zone savant or stingy with swinging at breaking balls in the dirt. Hitters that move up levels likely won’t see a significant amount of breaking balls – a product of a lack of advanced scouting. Sure, there is always the two-strike hook, but those should be anticipated at any level. As Hicks gets challenged more as the 2013 season progresses, we will see how disciplined he actually is. He is already prone to strike out (20% of his minor league plate appearances), so it is possible that he is going to K more frequently.

    Like all players before him, Hicks will need to be able to adapt to his opposition – which is easier said than done.

    You'll get to kick of Opening Day with your free @TwinsDaily Minnesota Twins 2013 Season Preview. Just add us to your Twitter feed by following us, or tell us you like us (we're pathetic like that). We'll publish a link to the free ebook on Opening Day on both sites.
    This article was originally published in blog: What lies ahead for Aaron Hicks? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 107 Comments
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      The curve ball called third strike is killing him so far.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      I'm torn on Hicks. Just a year ago I was pretty down on him and had doubts about his ability to hit. He put together a nice season last year and boosted his prospect status. This spring in the few AB's I watched him I was pretty impressed with his approach. However, it was Spring Training. So far this season it has gone similar to how I anticipated. He is going to struggle hitting LH. So bad were his splits prior to last year, that I wondered how the Twins are allowing him to keep switch hitting. It might take him a little while to adjust, it is a big jump and contact problems wont help him. IMO, he either couldn't hit balls and drew walks by the inability of minor league pitchers to throw strikes (worst case) or he struck out too often because umps were inconsistent and put him in tough spots (best case). Either way, he is not a .300 hitter and shouldn't be expected to be.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      I'm just not convinced he's ever going to be good enough from the left side of the plate. We will all see soon enough.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Agreed, I still think they should have tried to see what happens RH against righties last year.....I don't get why you'd not just try it.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      He has the defense. The Twins should expect for him to struggle offensively. A season similar to Torii Hunter's 23 year old season should be expected.

      Torii Hunter 255/309/380. Those number are in a season where run scoring was greater.

      Hunter's OPS+ his first fours seasons were 73,86,102,120.

      Will Twin fans be patient enough for Hicks to develop his bat? If he follows the same path, can Twin fans wait until 2015-16 before we see his peak production?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I think fans might be patient, IF other players are also being brought on that are showing progress.....but if he and Arcia are it for 2-3 years, I think they won't be patient with him because they will be mad about the rest of the team and take it out on him.....it really matters if the GM and Manager are patient though, not fans.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      It's too early to get overly worked up on the results, though obviously, we could have hoped for better through three games. The Tigers have some real flamethrowers in their rotation AND bullpen, and that's probably why it helped to see a pitch-to-contact guy like Porcello yesterday. He isn't flailing away at balls, and he looks like and analyzes and selects pitches. Anybody who remembers watching Carlos Gomez trying to be Vlad Guerrero in '08 knows that plate discipline isn't something to take for granted.

      In terms of the switch hitting thing, I've heard people talk about prospects abandoning switch hitting before, but it's usually prospects who are so terrible, they'll never hit in the bigs anyway. Can anyone think of a legitimate example of a hitter who abandoned switch hitting and actually became a legit MLB hitter? It just strikes me that he's always faced lefties as a righty, so to now expect him to hit left against lefties, and he'll just "figure it out"...yikes.

      Defensively - so far so good. Keeping in mind that the glare/shadows in left center for these 3pm games are apparently quite bad, he's looked rangey and smooth. And unlike Revere, he supposedly has a real cannon to work with out there, so I'm not worried about his arm strength. I'm sure he'll make some rookie mistakes here and there, but as long as his defense is good, we can give him a month or two to sort out the hitting.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      What's to figure out? I'm sorry, but the swing is the thing, not the arm of the pitcher. And just because people didn't do it in the past does not mean it should not be done in the future.

      I don't think anyone is worried about his defense, if they are, I have no idea why. It's his offense that people have worried about for a couple of years now.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post

      In terms of the switch hitting thing, I've heard people talk about prospects abandoning switch hitting before, but it's usually prospects who are so terrible, they'll never hit in the bigs anyway. Can anyone think of a legitimate example of a hitter who abandoned switch hitting and actually became a legit MLB hitter? It just strikes me that he's always faced lefties as a righty, so to now expect him to hit left against lefties, and he'll just "figure it out"...yikes.
      Yes. Rich Becker. No google required. And not just legit, but very good. The end.

      Also, you've got it backward. Hicksie's a natural right-hander who doesn't hit as well left-handed, aka the majority of his at bats. No matter, that ship has sailed, he's apparently destined to make most of his plate appearances with the lesser, off-hand skill set.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      I have not been able to watch all the games. How many SOs have been looking and how many swinging?

      For me it is a interesting situation because it really tests you as a educated baseball fan. We all know his history and one year of better performance last year does not change all that. Then he comes in to spring and tears it up and marketing hype starts to happen and I forget about historical data for a moment. That said, we are 3 games into a very long season and that is a really small sample and his strike outs are nothing to freak out about.

      I agree that the Torii Hunter rookie numbers would be nice as long as the defense continues and his plate discipline continues to develop. He is a leadoff hitter who needs to do whatever he can to get on base.

      StormJH1- please go to the MLB/Twins site and find the footage of Hicks. In ST he made a running catch in deep right center and threw a pea to first base to double up the runner. It was nullified by a balk or an interference call but that does not change the fact that the throw was awesome! It was on a line and shows off the cannon you talked about. We have not seen an arm like that in few years and I psyched for the first attempt he has for a put out at home or third when a runner tags.

      I am excited to have him in CF.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      People are getting worked up about a lot of things already. It's just too early to make any judgements on our 'improved' pitching or some of our struggling hitting. Let's enjoy the series win, but 3 games doesn't mean anything.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      My comments are based on years of minor league history, not three games....
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      My comments are based on years of minor league history, not three games....
      My comment was just 'in general'..not to anyone in particular whatsoever...
    1. UCLA_YANKEE_COLA's Avatar
      UCLA_YANKEE_COLA -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      Yes. Richard Godhard Becker. No google required. And not just legit, but very good. The end.
      Sorry, but I had to fix that for you. Richard Godhard prefers we use his full name.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      So the list of AAA skippers who succeeded in the majors consists of a guy who might go to the Hall of Fame and a guy who was on track for it until New York happened to him. Okey dokey, then...

      Also, inadvertently a nice update on the team control 'debate', as if there were one. Other than Babe Hicks and Baby Jesus, you have to go back to the last millennium to find a Twins minor leaguer starting the season in the bigs.

      Aaron Hicks will probably have a nice career in the majors, and I really hope he does. By all accounts I've heard he's a good guy and a hard worker. And anyone wringing their hands over 14 plate appearances should find a thread exclusively devoted to wins, saves, batting average and RBI's.

      That said, anointing Hicksie the opening day center fielder last year, when the Twins opted not to pursue an alternative, was the stupidest move they made for the 2013 season. And yes, despite Cy Correia's debut gem, his contract still makes my eyes bleed, but Hicks... well, what's the opposite of "Free [Slama]"?

      Good God. They should have let the kid finish getting ready in triple A. It's this whole other league, where the purpose is to learn(!), not win meaningless games. Our 90 loss season will wait.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by UCLA_YANKEE_COLA View Post
      Sorry, but I had to fix that for you. Richard Godhard prefers we use his full name.
      My bad. Thanks for the roadside repair. One of my bucket list items is to chase fires in Fort Myers until I get to meet RGB. Like many artists, he was not fully appreciated until after his time.
    1. Aaron Cross's Avatar
      Aaron Cross -
      I'm more than happy to ride it out with this kid if he struggles this year. We're rebuilding. I became weary of Span's shenanigans. He was always hurt, and a slow healer on top of it. Then he chickened out on the MRI and I pretty much was ready to move on from him. I thought his outfield defense was overrated too. Now counting down 3-2-1 until someone throws a defensive statistic at me to prove how good he was..............
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      here is one person's thoughts on Hicks and SH.....

      12:02
      [Comment From mike wants winsmike wants wins: ]
      I know Hicks is not a "prospect" sort of.....but when/how should a guy that is a switch hitter that is good from one side, but pretty bad from the other, give up on switch hitting? This is not based on three games, but minor league results....thanks.


      Friday April 5, 2013 12:02 mike wants wins



      12:04
      Mike Newman:
      Hicks is still a prospect. This was the fourth? consecutive year he was ranked in the top-100. I did notice he was much better from the right side than left which is tough considering he'll face more RHP. In the end, if he's a .750 OPS guy from the left side and .825 from the right, the combined results are still good. If you have Hicks face right-vs.-right, there's no guarantee of improvement given the way balls move and break.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post

      Good God. They should have let the kid finish getting ready in triple A. It's this whole other league, where the purpose is to learn(!), not win meaningless games. Our 90 loss season will wait.
      This is the tact that would have made sense I think. But, since we're at this point, the Twins are going to have to let it ride, at least for awhile.

      The biggest issue with Hicks will be if these Ks are for real and how well he'll adjust, and, hopefully, avoid them. He struck out a lot in the minors especially considering the numbers were from A and AA, and that's my biggest concern for him being in the majors because it would be a victory if those numbers don't increase and astounding if they actually decreased.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Yes, Hicks is proving to be over matched by all pitchers at the plate. I fear watching a whole bunch of K's, both looking and swinging. If that continues, it will be interesting to see how long and how long he leads off.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.