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  • 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. Bojangles's Avatar
      Bojangles -
      What do you guys think, is it too late to convert Hicks back into a pitcher? Bobby Cuellar could learn him the changeup and Anne Sullivan the cutter. Give it six months and they'll have the kid inducing so many weak popups it'll give us all feverish flashback nightmares of the Nick Punto era.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bojangles View Post
      What do you guys think, is it too late to convert Hicks back into a pitcher? Bobby Cuellar could learn him the changeup and Anne Sullivan the cutter. Give it six months and they'll have the kid inducing so many weak popups it'll give us all feverish flashback nightmares of the Nick Punto era.
      Slow clap.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Watching Hicks misjudge Adam Jones' first drive to center today..... not even take a stab at it... was pretty depressing after hearing so much talk about his great fielding. And then, not that he had much chance of throwing the runner out at home, but double clutching and taking the extra step is never going to help.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      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.
      He's 23 years old now, definitely old enough. I was on the other side with Brian Dozier last year, but Hicks is actually talented. Let him play now.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bojangles View Post
      What do you guys think, is it too late to convert Hicks back into a pitcher? Bobby Cuellar could learn him the changeup and Anne Sullivan the cutter. Give it six months and they'll have the kid inducing so many weak popups it'll give us all feverish flashback nightmares of the Nick Punto era.
      Can you imagine a bullpen of Hicks and Plouffe? I know there is at least one former poster that thinks Plouffe should be in the bullpen.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      Can you imagine a bullpen of Hicks and Plouffe? I know there is at least one former poster that thinks Plouffe should be in the bullpen.
      I think it will be between them two for the first position player to pitch.... Man I hope that game happens.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Not when you have a shutdown arm in Butera on the roster. C'mon everyone knows that it will happen.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      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.
      Learn in AAA? You mean like Hendriks and Slama? and oh so many failures that the Twins have recycled between Rochester and Minneapolis? AAA isn't for learning--it's a wasteland for failures, and is sometimes used to show AA players on there way to "the bigs" that they had better not fail or they will be back in this wasteland.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      Learn in AAA? You mean like Hendriks and Slama? and oh so many failures that the Twins have recycled between Rochester and Minneapolis? AAA isn't for learning--it's a wasteland for failures, and is sometimes used to show AA players on there way to "the bigs" that they had better not fail or they will be back in this wasteland.
      Walk me through that list of twins hitters in the past 20 years who had a good season after coming straight up from AA...
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      The curve ball called third strike is killing him so far.
      Gladden said it's a typical umpire gauntlet young guys go through. He said he was talking to Bruno, who looked at the Pith f/x data on those called thirds and found all of them out of the strike zone. But eveybody goes through it. Even Mauer did when he was a rookie.
    1. shs_59's Avatar
      shs_59 -
      STUPID STUPID STUPID.

      I was pissed when hicks made the opening day roster......WHY THE FOCK wreck is confidence and now (at best) take the Dexter Fowler path (if we're lucky)

      IT still makes ZERO FOCKING sense to not just let him start at AAA Rochester wait untill May or June or even July untill he's tearing it up there and call him up and let him rape.

      Now we've wrecked his confidence lost a yr. of service time and wil have to send him down to Roc. Eventually here soon.

      Also would we be 4-1 or undefeated if Darin Mastroianni was the starting CF'er?

      MY god. I said he was not ready and KNEW it.


      STUPID FOCKING SPRING FOCKING TRAINING it means 99% NOTHING!!
    1. shs_59's Avatar
      shs_59 -
      1-22, with 2 BB's and a gazillion K's

      what would Mastro be ? 4,5 or 6 for 22 with a BB or 3?

      would we be 3-2 or 4-1 instead of 2-3? I'm close to certain we would.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Seriously, man, calm down. It's okay, really. Hicks can "lose" a year of service time with a demotion to AAA.
    1. nmoline's Avatar
      nmoline -
      I think there is too much pressure on him to get on base in front of Mauer from the 1 hole. I'd like to see him moved to the end of the lineup to get some confidence. If he fails there then send him back to AAA but first season in the bigs and you have to bat leadoff in front of Mauer. Have fun with that.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by shs_59 View Post
      1-22, with 2 BB's and a gazillion K's

      what would Mastro be ? 4,5 or 6 for 22 with a BB or 3?

      would we be 3-2 or 4-1 instead of 2-3? I'm close to certain we would.
      Mastroianni has been hurt. He would not have started this week. Clete Thomas or Joe Benson might be 0-22 with even more K's.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments makes in the next couple of weeks. I wasn't too high on his MLB batting skills this year but this is not a good start.

      It's a little disturbing how much his body and to a certain extent his face reminds me of Carlos Gomez. So far he hasn't displayed any of his antics that bothered me for so long.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Thought I was at the Strib site for several minutes while reading many of these comments.

      Have any of you seen the "photo" with the koala holding his paw up and saying "everyone just calm the **** down"? Yeah.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Hicks has been overmatched. What were people expecting? He should have been in AAA, most likely. The Twins didn't want to wait and that is going to mean learning on the job.

      And GUESS WHAT? The fact that Hicks (and Mauer) are not getting on base and yet the Twins are 3-2 is a good thing.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      What lies ahead for Aaron Hicks? How about a realization that he's a RHB.

    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairweather View Post
      What lies ahead for Aaron Hicks? How about a realization that he's a RHB.
      Question: do you think he magically hits RHP as a RHB as well as he hits LHP as a RHB?
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