• Hicks Shaping Up As Bruno Success Story?

    On April 13th at Target Field, Aaron Hicks went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, dropping his batting average to .047. It was the seventh time in 10 major-league games that he'd notched multiple strikeouts, and in total the rookie had whiffed in a whopping 43 percent of his plate appearances.

    With the season two weeks old, even Hicks' most staunch supporters were facing the reality that his struggles amounted to more than a mere slump. He was overwhelmed and his issues at the plate were compounding rather than clearing.

    At this point the Twins had begun feeling pressure to make a move of some kind ("I'll let you know when we do that," Ron Gardenhire told an inquiring reporter, "so you don't have to ask every day anymore"), and surely they were weighing their options. Ultimately, they decided to stick with Hicks, albeit while sliding him down in the batting order, and it sounds like the decision was heavily influenced by another ambitious rookie -- first-year hitting coach Tom Brunansky.

    When Gardenhire told Pioneer Press reporter Mike Berardino of the decision to keep Hicks around, Berardino inferred that "Brunansky lobbied hard to keep working with [Hicks]." Said Gardenhire: "Talking with Brunansky, his feeling is he wants to work with this kid. He believes he can get him right. I'm with Tom."

    That's pretty bold for Bruno, who's still in his first few weeks on the job as a major-league hitting coach. Hicks appeared totally lost in the woods, which is not necessarily shocking for a 23-year-old straight out of Double-A, prompting many to believe he should spend some time in Rochester.

    Of course, Brunansky knows a little bit about fast rises. In his playing career, he rocketed through the minors and was an effective full-time big-leaguer by the age of 21. His coaching career has followed a similarly steep ascent; he rejoined the Twins organization as a rookie-league hitting instructor in 2010, and has climbed from there to Double-A to Triple-A to the majors within a span of three years.

    Perhaps, through that experience, Brunansky can offer some perspective to the discombobulated Hicks. Whatever they're doing right now, it seems to be helping. In four games since the three-strikeout performance against the Mets, the center fielder has drawn six walks, and he hadn't struck out until fanning on a full count in his fourth trip on Sunday. There's been a visible and dramatic improvement in his previously broken plate approach, and if he can keep it up, his slump-busting RBI single will only be the start of a full-fledged turnaround.

    Presently he's still hitting .059, but Hicks is seeing the ball better, working into favorable counts and heading to the box with more confidence. If sustained, those trends will lead to a rapid rise in his batting average. With a little help, he seems to be finding his way.
    This article was originally published in blog: Hicks Shaping Up As Bruno Success Story? started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 84 Comments
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      Boggs has played all of 6 games at CF the last 2 years and hasn't been a primary CF since AA in 2007. Joe Benson hit .202 last year with a .624 OPS and missed a large portion of the second half. Clete Thomas posted a .686 OPS at AAA and a .458 OPS in the majors last year. Aaron Hicks had a nice 2012 at AA but was going to be jumping up 2 levels to get his first taste of MLB. How is it surprising that these guys are struggling?

      That pretty much left Mastroianni as the only legitimate MLB ready player. Which is pretty much what we've seen except that Mastro has also been hurt. Who is talking about being 3 deep at CF? I'd like it if we weren't forced to play our historically bad 23 year old CF because we literally have no other options for the next 2 weeks and even then we won't have a legitimate back up for Mastroianni unless Hicks or Benson can some how miraculously turn things around.

      It didn't take a rocket scientist to see the Twins were taking a big gamble and essentially forcing Hicks (or less likely Benson) into the starting role no matter if he was ready to go or not. There were no alternatives. Now we are reaping what the FO sowed.
      Right -- having people who play CF is not the same thing as having a CF. I think the Twins should have been looking for a second option like Mastro, mostly because if Hicks didn't/doesn't work out, you really don't have anyone behind him and you don't want Hicks or Benson getting ABs everyday without hurting the team as much as possible. Who is our current backup CF even?
    1. Gene Larkin Fan Club's Avatar
      Gene Larkin Fan Club -
      Nick - I really enjoyed your article and completely grasped your meaning. I'm sorry there are some that many are so quick to attack and jump to conclusions that they fail to read your actual words (and punctuation?). Maybe we could avoid worthless arguments if we weren't so quick to rush to harsh judgement. I'm surprised people are still arguing with you about it. I would have been embarrassed if I'd misread and misinterpreted an article so badly. Perhaps if they were to go back and reread the article, they could move on. Thanks for what you do. I truly appreciate your insight.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      Boggs has played all of 6 games at CF the last 2 years and hasn't been a primary CF since AA in 2007. Joe Benson hit .202 last year with a .624 OPS and missed a large portion of the second half. Clete Thomas posted a .686 OPS at AAA and a .458 OPS in the majors last year. Aaron Hicks had a nice 2012 at AA but was going to be jumping up 2 levels to get his first taste of MLB. How is it surprising that these guys are struggling?

      That pretty much left Mastroianni as the only legitimate MLB ready player. Which is pretty much what we've seen except that Mastro has also been hurt. Who is talking about being 3 deep at CF? I'd like it if we weren't forced to play our historically bad 23 year old CF because we literally have no other options for the next 2 weeks and even then we won't have a legitimate back up for Mastroianni unless Hicks or Benson can some how miraculously turn things around.

      It didn't take a rocket scientist to see the Twins were taking a big gamble and essentially forcing Hicks (or less likely Benson) into the starting role no matter if he was ready to go or not. There were no alternatives. Now we are reaping what the FO sowed.
      We had enough depth at CF heading into the season, nobody could predict Mastro would get this hurt and nobody could predict Hicks would struggle THIS much at the plate.

      I still am glad the Twins were able to get Meyer, Worley and May, even if they have a hole in the lineup for a month or so. (I Still think Hicks rebounds or Arcia takes the job from him)
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      We had enough depth at CF heading into the season, nobody could predict Mastro would get this hurt and nobody could predict Hicks would struggle THIS much at the plate.

      I still am glad the Twins were able to get Meyer, Worley and May, even if they have a hole in the lineup for a month or so. (I Still think Hicks rebounds or Arcia takes the job from him)
      An unknown from AA is not depth. Predicting that Hicks would succeed and that both would be healthy was a very high risk proposition and certainly far less likely than the reverse, that both would be relatively healthy and Hicks would perform as an adequate ML CF.

      Arcia can't play CF regularly.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gene Larkin Fan Club View Post
      Nick - I really enjoyed your article and completely grasped your meaning. I'm sorry there are some that many are so quick to attack and jump to conclusions that they fail to read your actual words (and punctuation?). Maybe we could avoid worthless arguments if we weren't so quick to rush to harsh judgement. I'm surprised people are still arguing with you about it. I would have been embarrassed if I'd misread and misinterpreted an article so badly. Perhaps if they were to go back and reread the article, they could move on. Thanks for what you do. I truly appreciate your insight.
      I agree that I like almost everything Nick writes, even though I don't always agree with him. But I think to say the criticism is unfair is a bit harsh. I mean, if someone wrote the opposite about Hicks after three games we'd be crying small sample size, too. (In fact, Nick is in the opposite side of the Correia thread). Throw in the inherent bias (we know Nick was pulling pretty hard for them to start Hicks) and I think the pushback isn't surprising. On the other hand, Nick's been honest of his criticism of Hicks (last night's called third strike), too, and some here are just focused being overly and continuously critical. I do hope he's right about Hicks, though.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      An unknown from AA is not depth. Predicting that Hicks would succeed and that both would be healthy was a very high risk proposition and certainly far less likely than the reverse, that both would be relatively healthy and Hicks would perform as an adequate ML CF.

      Arcia can't play CF regularly.
      What was the great alternative then? Keep in mind this is a rebuilding team, so hanging onto Revere or whatever would have been a mistake IMO, and it wasn't worth signing anyone on the free agent market since Mastro at the very least could have equaled their output. (Assuming a cheap 1 year 1-2 mil a year type player)

      Hicks was an unknown but tore it up towards the end of last year and in spring training. I was perfectly happy rolling with him and Mastro to start the year. If absolute need be we can always find some scrub AAAA to fill in for a bit if we need. I'd rather just give Hicks another 100 at bats or so to see if he can turn it around or so.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      Right -- having people who play CF is not the same thing as having a CF. I think the Twins should have been looking for a second option like Mastro, mostly because if Hicks didn't/doesn't work out, you really don't have anyone behind him and you don't want Hicks or Benson getting ABs everyday without hurting the team as much as possible. Who is our current backup CF even?
      So we traded two center fielders before the season for a sizable haul because they are extremely valuable in the marketplace. They are extremely valuable because they are extremely rare. Expecting to have four or five capable major league center fielders at one time is ludicrous, especially after trading two in the offseason.

      Our current backup is Ramirez if we're talking about a game here or there. Escobar can also play out there in an emergency.good
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      I'm not a big Revere fan and I was fine with trading him, but how would keeping a guy who still hasn't turned 25 years old hurt our rebuilding phase? He's young, can't be a FA until 2018, and he's a year and 5 months older than Hicks.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      I'm not a big Revere fan and I was fine with trading him, but how would keeping a guy who still hasn't turned 25 years old hurt our rebuilding phase? He's young, can't be a FA until 2018, and about a year and a half older than Hicks.
      Really?

      The #1, #2 and #4 need for the Twins to rebuild is pitching and Revere brought in two pretty good arms. That is the required step to rebuild even if it means trading a young player.

      #3 and #5 is MI if you are interested.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      Really?

      The #1, #2 and #4 need for the Twins to rebuild is pitching and Revere brought in two pretty good arms. That is the required step to rebuild even if it means trading a young player.

      #3 and #5 is MI if you are interested.
      Did you not see the part where I said...I was fine with trading him? What's your 'really' all about? You should read and absorb posts before jumping the gun, dude.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      So we traded two center fielders before the season for a sizable haul because they are extremely valuable in the marketplace. They are extremely valuable because they are extremely rare. Expecting to have four or five capable major league center fielders at one time is ludicrous, especially after trading two in the offseason.

      Our current backup is Ramirez if we're talking about a game here or there. Escobar can also play out there in an emergency.good
      Ludicrous? How about exaggerating the number that I actually suggested? I wasn't suggesting four or five. I suggested one, and when I said similar to Mastro, I was implying a CF on the bubble, but one who could at least play a suitable backup, especially with the range we are lacking out there.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      What was the great alternative then? Keep in mind this is a rebuilding team, so hanging onto Revere or whatever would have been a mistake IMO, and it wasn't worth signing anyone on the free agent market since Mastro at the very least could have equaled their output. (Assuming a cheap 1 year 1-2 mil a year type player)

      Hicks was an unknown but tore it up towards the end of last year and in spring training. I was perfectly happy rolling with him and Mastro to start the year. If absolute need be we can always find some scrub AAAA to fill in for a bit if we need. I'd rather just give Hicks another 100 at bats or so to see if he can turn it around or so.
      Hick's had a good year in AA. He wasn't "tearing it up." And, why are people still using spring training numbers?

      I wasn't against either trade, and you might be right that we might be able to find someone of the caliber I was talking about relatively easily (AAAA), but we are an injury away from that, or we'll probably be looking into it if Hicks's doesn't continue to improve.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      Ludicrous? How about exaggerating the number that I actually suggested? I wasn't suggesting four or five. I suggested one, and when I said similar to Mastro, I was implying a CF on the bubble, but one who could at least play a suitable backup, especially with the range we are lacking out there.
      Why on earth would you need 3 CF's on the opening day roster? Especially another "on the bubble one"

      Any "on the bubble one" would probably prefer to take a job where he had a better chance of not starting the season in AAA.

      The Twins have screwed the pooch in depth at positions, but CF is seriously the least of my worries. I am much more concerned about what happens when the MI inevitably falls apart like it always does.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      We had enough depth at CF heading into the season, nobody could predict Mastro would get this hurt and nobody could predict Hicks would struggle THIS much at the plate.

      I still am glad the Twins were able to get Meyer, Worley and May, even if they have a hole in the lineup for a month or so. (I Still think Hicks rebounds or Arcia takes the job from him)
      Prior to the season many questioned havinbg AA player make the leap while having an unproven backup, who had a total of 140 mlb at bats(without looking up the true number)While i am a fan of Mastroianni, i was hoping for an addition of at least 1 true centerfielder, or recently aquiring Julio Borbon.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Did you not see the part where I said...I was fine with trading him? What's your 'really' all about? You should read and absorb posts before jumping the gun, dude.
      I read and answered this part.

      but how would keeping a guy who still hasn't turned 25 years old hurt our rebuilding phase?
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      I read and answered this part.
      Yes, in general, how would keeping someone like Revere hurt our rebuilding? I was fine with the trade and I was fine with what we got for him, cause we absolutely need pitching.

      However, keeping a player like Revere with his youth and contract situation doesn't hurt the rebuilding process. If you can get what we got for him it helps the rebuilding process, but if we weren't able to get that, keeping him sure wouldn't have hurt the rebuilding process.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      Why on earth would you need 3 CF's on the opening day roster? Especially another "on the bubble one"

      Any "on the bubble one" would probably prefer to take a job where he had a better chance of not starting the season in AAA.

      The Twins have screwed the pooch in depth at positions, but CF is seriously the least of my worries. I am much more concerned about what happens when the MI inevitably falls apart like it always does.
      I would have liked to see a better backup plan (and I was thinking of stashing someone in AAA), but you are right that they can probably sign one on the fly if needed.

      I don't disagree about the MI, but it's certainly looked far better so far and they have 4 players that can hold down those positions defensively adequately.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      I'm not a big Revere fan and I was fine with trading him, but how would keeping a guy who still hasn't turned 25 years old hurt our rebuilding phase? He's young, can't be a FA until 2018, and he's a year and 5 months older than Hicks.
      We needed pitching. According to Antony, they were not shopping Revere so soon after trading Span. But they were blown away, getting a #3 starter for this years' rotation and a #2 starter for next years' rotation, for a guy who struggles to get on base at more than a .333 clip and has no power.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      Prior to the season many questioned havinbg AA player make the leap while having an unproven backup, who had a total of 140 mlb at bats(without looking up the true number)While i am a fan of Mastroianni, i was hoping for an addition of at least 1 true centerfielder, or recently aquiring Julio Borbon.
      Borbon is not a good ball player, I would rather have Hicks take his hacks then watch Borbon waste time.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Also I'd like to point out that I am pretty sure if the Twins signed an additional AAAA guy or whatever to share the CF role with Mastro out of spring training (while sending Hicks to AAA) people would have been going insane with calls of having Ryan fired etc.

      Hindsight is nice and all, but I still think they did the right decision bringing Hicks north to start the year.
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