• 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 -
      And, oh my god, THAT SHIP SAILED. One cannot advance Hicks this far and then dramatically alter his approach to over half of all the pitchers in baseball.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      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.
      Either Gladden was lying, or Bruno doesnt know how to use pitch f/x.

      Here is the K looking vs. verlander (3rd inning):
      (pitch #5, right down the middle)



      Here is his 3rd inning called K vs Sanchez:




      Here is the 3rd inning K against Porcello, this one is outside of the zone:




      The rest of Hicks K's have come swinging. So, 2 of the 3 looking K's were strikes (both pretty much right down the middle), and the 3rd was outside the zone by about 2 inches.
    1. buffalo_pete's Avatar
      buffalo_pete -
      Call me crazy, but in my uneducated opinion the place to find out if Hicks can hit big league pitching...is the big leagues.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by buffalo_pete View Post
      Call me crazy, but in my uneducated opinion the place to find out if Hicks can hit big league pitching...is the big leagues.
      You don't always find out the first stint up though.
      A demotion back to the minors is not the end of the world for a prospect. There are plenty of good prospects who struggled their first call up, went back down, then came up and figured things out in their 2nd or 3rd stint.
      IMO, it's probably not that they learn anything new, but that confidence goes a VERY long way in baseball. Sometimes if a guy is hitting really bad, for a long stretch of time, his confidence is shot, and he's never going to break out of that slump until he gets it back.
      Sometimes sending a guy down to get his confidence back against inferior opposition can be the best possible thing for a young player.

      I'm in no way saying its that time already for Hicks. But as some have said, if this continues for a while, and the guys who are around him sense that his confidence is shot, then letting him get his confidence back in AAA might be the best thing for both him and the team.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      .


      I'm in no way saying its that time already for Hicks. But as some have said, if this continues for a while, and the guys who are around him sense that his confidence is shot, then letting him get his confidence back in AAA might be the best thing for both him and the team.
      Morneau said as much in the post-game interview.

      And good call on Hick's K struggles. They have nothing to do with the umpiring.

      I am most surprised that there are people out there surprised that Hicks is struggling. No need to panic or write the kid off as a bust. There are major growing pains for most players to make the jump for good. If/when he goes down to AAA will most likely end up being just another part of the maturation process and in the end, a good thing.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      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.
      Tough to say, of course, but it's conceivable we could be 3-2 even with Hicks in the lineup.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by nmoline View Post
      I think there is too much pressure on him to get on base in front of Mauer from the 1 hole.
      Move whichever second baseman that day to the second spot. Problem solved.

      Sincerely,
      R. Clyde Gardenhire
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by buffalo_pete View Post
      Call me crazy, but in my uneducated opinion the place to find out if Hicks can hit big league pitching...is the big leagues.
      Agreed. Why haven't we called up Arcia, Rosario, Sano, and Buxton yet?
    1. mudcat14's Avatar
      mudcat14 -
      Quick, bold prediction. By the end of the month his BA will be up to the .240 range, with an OBP over .300. He'll trend upward and end the season in the .270/.340 range, while providing stellar D. Clearly he's pressing right now, but his patient approach at the plate will begin to pay off.
    1. Bojangles's Avatar
      Bojangles -
      Quote Originally Posted by alex View Post
      agreed. Why haven't we called up arcia, rosario, sano, and buxton yet?
      free buxton

      edit: wow, all caps isn't allowed here? I'm leaving..
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Say Hicks doesn't show marked improvement (stays below a .150 AVG, strikes out 40% of his ABs). How long does this last? He is tied for most strikeouts in the entire major leagues, and is in the bottom 5 for almost every category. I'm not saying they should do anything now (other than give him a freakin' day off somehow), but what are the thoughts on how long this can go on?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Alex, I'd say end of May. completely PoA, with zero thought.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      Say Hicks doesn't show marked improvement (stays below a .150 AVG, strikes out 40% of his ABs). How long does this last? He is tied for most strikeouts in the entire major leagues, and is in the bottom 5 for almost every category. I'm not saying they should do anything now (other than give him a freakin' day off somehow), but what are the thoughts on how long this can go on?
      How long did they stick with Dozier last year?

      Seriously, until Mastro gets off the crutches. (If he can't go 100%, why wasn't he just DLd? Mind-boggling). Anyone nostalgic yet for a return of Clete Thomas? Certainly not me, but he has started out decently in Roc.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Hicks will get it together soon.
    1. wavedog's Avatar
      wavedog -
      Wow, 7 games and his career is over. It will take some patience. If by the end of the month he is still not batting over .100 they may need to send him to Triple A so it doesn't beat him down to bad but otherwise let him battle through it.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I don't see a single person saying his career is over. Not one, in the entire thread.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by wavedog View Post
      Wow, 7 games and his career is over. It will take some patience. If by the end of the month he is still not batting over .100 they may need to send him to Triple A so it doesn't beat him down to bad but otherwise let him battle through it.
      My question was basically how much longer might a player called up from AA be able to continue at this kind of pace?
    1. Pius Jefferson's Avatar
      Pius Jefferson -
      If he continues to struggle is the first step moving him down or sending him to Rochester?
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pius Jefferson View Post
      If he continues to struggle is the first step moving him down or sending him to Rochester?
      Unless somone else heats up they don't have a legit lead off anyway, but otherwise I'd think moving him down is the way to go.
    1. wavedog's Avatar
      wavedog -
      I would consider moving him to the lower part of the batting order out of the leadoff position if they feel he is putting too much pressure on himself before a demotion to AAA.
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