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  • The Mysterious Lost Season of Aaron Hicks

    Aaron Hicks had to be flying high at the conclusion of spring training this season. He had won the starting center fielder job for the Twins and he would be making his big league debut in front of the Target Field faithful. His 2012 minor league campaign was fantastic as he showed much of the promise the Twins had seen in him when they took him as a first round pick.

    The future seemed nothing but bright and there were comparisons being made to some of the best outfielders in the game.

    Those flowery thoughts didn't last long as Hicks struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball. At the end of April, he had a batting line of .113/.229/.127, with a double being his lone extra-base hit. These were tough numbers to swallow, especially with the high expectations coming out of spring training.

    Switching the calendar to May helped Hicks with his power swing but the other numbers didn't follow suit. After one extra-base hit in the first month, he cracked 10 extra-base hits in the second month of the season including six home runs. This raised his slugging percentage almost 200 points from .127 to .315 and it led some to believe that Hicks might have turned the corner.

    Throughout his minor league career, he had been praised as being a patient hitter but ML pitchers were able to attack him at the plate. In the first two months of the season, he struck out 49 times and he was able to coax only 17 walks. Combine his low walk total with the fact that he wasn't hitting the ball all that great and red flags were becoming more obvious.

    June saw Hicks trying to overcome his first extended stay on the DL. He was sent to Triple-A for the first time as part of his rehab and it seemed as though he might have benefitted more by staying at that level. Instead the team brought him back for the start of July and there were a few more baby steps in the right direction.

    Hicks batted .230/.292/.379 after returning from the DL. His batting average and OBP were the highest marks for any month so there were some positive signs. He was able to steal five bases while being caught only once. On the negative side, he struck out 26 times and was limited to six walks. The Twins decided it was time for Hicks to try to succeed at Triple-A; he was sent down for the remainder of Rochester's season.

    Things weren't much better for Hicks in limited action in the minors. For the season, he played 22 games with Rochester and posted a batting line of .222/..317/.333 with six extra-base hits but no home runs. He was able to draw 10 walks but he averaged close to a strikeout a game. There was no shining light at the end of the tunnel.

    Hicks wasn't among the Twins September call-ups and there are plenty of questions surrounding him after his first big league season. Should the Twins give up on Hicks in favor of stud prospect Byron Buxton? What is the future role of Hicks with this team? Will he ever be able to be a consistent hitter at the big league level? Was this a lost season for the former top prospect?

    Everything seemed bright for Hicks under the color of the Florida sun but things quickly turned cold in the brisk Minnesota spring. It will be an offseason of reflection for Mr. Hicks and hopefully a chance to enter next season with the ability to forget what happened in 2013.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Mysterious Lost Season of Aaron Hicks started by Cody Christie
    Comments 44 Comments
    1. MichiganTwins's Avatar
      MichiganTwins -
      I dont think we should give up on hicks at all. He has got a lot of talent and my bet is he starts to contribute next season but maybe not at the start.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I wonder if he can still be a great SP prospect with his 97 MPH fastball instead of OF
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Man, what a year. Mastro nd Benson could've put themselves into the mix early, even Ramirez was a possibility. But ended up with Hicks.

      He batted lead-off for that first month and was dismal. He was moved back in the order. He needed to go down at that point. I'm not sure why he didn't.

      Clete Thoams got the call and shined, then became...Clete Thomas. Another guy who could've run away with the position.

      Hicks came back. But he couldn't out Clete Clete.

      At this point, the service time bunny appeared. It should continue with Hicks starting anew at AAA Rochester in 2014 rather than learn in the majors. I can't believe that Presley will be our starting centerfielder.

      Hicks will continue to develop. He may not be the centerfielder of the future, but putting him at one of the corners with hit Buxton in center is a plus. Batting him second (if he cuts downs on the K's) behind Buxton may prove to be the best 1-2 in baseball, especially with Mauer continuing in the #3 spot.

      Like September, spring training you face a multitude of pitchers of different skill levels. Batters tend to be ahead of pitchers. The weather is nice. It can be more relaxed.
    1. MichiganTwins's Avatar
      MichiganTwins -
      Yeah I really like Hicks too. He has got mad skill and he will show it.
    1. Danchat's Avatar
      Danchat -
      I think the key for Hicks is to forget this year and refocus for 2014. There isn't anywhere to go but up for him. (Well, I guess there is Mendoza line and the Butera line...)

      I hope he can cut those strikeouts. Our batting coach needs to teach to hit for contact. Unfortunately it seems to be the other way around currently. Our pitchers are throwing for contact and our batters are swinging to miss...
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Didnt gardy recently make a snyde comment about hicks that ended up on twitter? Maybe the biggest change hicks needs is a manager who wont throw him under the bus. This kid is crazy talented, and I'd much sooner watch him take his lumps rather than watch a no talent bum like Pressley. But he's scrappy and he gets after it. Blah blah blah.
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      For starters, hicks needs to scrap switch hitting.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I think he starts in Rochester and remains there till he earned it. I'm hoping he doesn't have the slow start thing again given that was facing much tougher talent in the big leagues. In his defense, he did end his season on a high note, and I hope he gets off to a great start and forces his way back. In the mean time, Presley gets the starting CF job and a chance to prove if he can stay. If they both hit well, there's a potential trade chip in there.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I responded to this blog post a few days ago, but will summarize here:

      There is nothing that shocking whatsoever about Aaron Hicks' season. What, Shane?

      April: How many players in recent baseball history have jumped a level and then been asked to bat leadoff for the MLB team? I have asked that before and I don't think I got an answer.

      The rest of the season: Aaron Hicks has never been a fast adjuster upon promotion. In 2012 he did do very well in New Britain, but if I remember correctly, he started out slow there and it was only after being down in the lineup for awhile and THEN getting put up at the top of the NB lineup that he ended up going off. He has always been slow in even normal step-by-step movements up the system.

      His post-April numbers are not at all that surprising given B, and the April numbers are terrible, but really not completely surprising either.

      The attitude towards Hicks around here is what is surprising though. It's as though people are ignoring his entire minor league career. And ignoring the fact that he was thrust into a ridiculous situation to begin with this season.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      I responded to this blog post a few days ago, but will summarize here:

      There is nothing that shocking whatsoever about Aaron Hicks' season. What, Shane?

      April: How many players in recent baseball history have jumped a level and then been asked to bat leadoff for the MLB team? I have asked that before and I don't think I got an answer.

      The rest of the season: Aaron Hicks has never been a fast adjuster upon promotion. In 2012 he did do very well in New Britain, but if I remember correctly, he started out slow there and it was only after being down in the lineup for awhile and THEN getting put up at the top of the NB lineup that he ended up going off. He has always been slow in even normal step-by-step movements up the system.

      His post-April numbers are not at all that surprising given B, and the April numbers are terrible, but really not completely surprising either.

      The attitude towards Hicks around here is what is surprising though. It's as though people are ignoring his entire minor league career. And ignoring the fact that he was thrust into a ridiculous situation to begin with this season.
      It turns out that that the ones who really found this all that mysterious and were blindly ignoring all the warning signs from Hicks' minor league career were the Skipper, who strongly advocated for Hicks back in January:

      "But as I told Terry, when all these things were going on -- Span and then Revere -- we talked about it, if he trades this guy, what are you going to do here? ... If he trades both of them, what are you going to do?"The one thing I asked Terry, I just want to make sure that Aaron Hicks has the opportunity to come into spring training -- if we trade Span, and we end up trading Revere too, and this was (said) way before (those trades) -- I said I want the opportunity to give him a shot at my centerfield job."

      And the former Executive of the Year:

      The guy has earned it [Starting in CF and leading off]. I find it almost humorous that people are talking about service time, starting the clock. We didn't trade Span and Revere to stall the next guy. ... I can't ever feel guilt about stopping a guy that deserves to be there..............
      Are we trying to win, or what are we doing? Can you imagine if we sent somebody [down] that did what the kid did? [Here Ryan is referring to Hicks' performance in 20 spring training games], and I had to look at Willingham and Morneau and Perkins and Mauer and those guys that are trying to win, and I'm going to stop that guy? I just don't believe in that. I hear this stuff. Not here.
      They both qualified their statements later on in their interviews, but why didn't the media press them on where the back-up plans were in CF and batting leadoff? Because they had no legitimate back-up plans for both those roles (Mastro was not a legitimate alternative as a starting CF, even before his injury), this is squarely on both of them.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Yeah, that's a pretty clear indictment of both of them. I do not expect anything different from Gardenhire since he is, you know . . . I won't say it. But from TR it is a bit strange. It tells me that they really think of AA has Majors-Light or something. And that's dumb. I remember at the winter meeting Ryan indicating that even Benson was a contender.

      The big thing to me was the leadoff situation. I wouldn't have been so bothered with a healthy Mastro in CF for awhile . . . if he batted 8th. They just had no leadoff hitter (probably should have gone wild and crazy and put Mauer there).
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Quote Originally Posted by Marta Shearing View Post
      ...
      This kid is crazy talented, and I'd much sooner watch him take his lumps rather than watch a no talent bum like Pressley. ...
      Wow. You realize that in the last 3 years Presley has never been as bad as Hicks has been this year, right?

      Just because you have confidence in Hicks doesn't automatically make anyone else at his position a 'no talent bum'. Presley can keep the position warm until someone comes along and wins it on merit rather than promise.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Marta Shearing View Post
      ... This kid is crazy talented, and I'd much sooner watch him take his lumps rather than watch a no talent bum like Pressley....
      Moderator note --

      It is a violation of TD policy to call a player a "no talent bum." You are free to comment on a player's lack of talent or performance, but "no talent bum" crosses the line into insult territory and trolling.

      Please be more respectful and less inflammatory.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      In Nick Nelson's article about calling Hicks up, I mentioned a major red flag. There were other concerns but for me it was his strikeout levels. He's never struck out less than once every five PAs and I thought that was a massive signal he wasn't ready, especially a player with his skillset.

      At best, he'd be comparable, but jumping two levels it was far more likely that he'd end up striking out more -- and not just more a lot more. This turned out to be the case and in the majors, he struck out once nearly every three times at the plate.

      So, I'd agree with Shane that it wasn't as shocking or mysterious.
    1. orangevening's Avatar
      orangevening -
      With Mastro's injury and Benson's flame out the Twins had little choice. Easy to criticize now, but what choice did they have especially after his spring training performance?. Gardy is stubborn (one of his major faults) and is stuck on putting CF, SS, or 2nd in leadoff especially with Span and Reverre setting up the line up the years before. Gardy hated giving up Morneau, but getting a CF that can leadoff made him happy.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by orangevening View Post
      With Mastro's injury and Benson's flame out the Twins had little choice. Easy to criticize now, but what choice did they have especially after his spring training performance?. Gardy is stubborn (one of his major faults) and is stuck on putting CF, SS, or 2nd in leadoff especially with Span and Reverre setting up the line up the years before. Gardy hated giving up Morneau, but getting a CF that can leadoff made him happy.
      Easy to criticize now? A lot of us were criticizing it at the time.

      We've seen plenty of examples where spring training numbers don't matter and don't show anything, and certainly shouldn't be valued over a much larger sample like minor league performance. I also think they were planning on starting him regardless -- unless he was horrible.

      They had Clete Thomas and Antoan Richardson in the minors. There was no real reason they HAD to go with Hicks from the start, nor was there a reason they had to stay with him as long as they did. They could have gone with them for a month until they were sure Hicks would be ready.

      EDIT: I realize maybe you're referring to leadoff, that was a bigger team construction issue. They had a ton of unproven hitters in the lineup and very few on base guys that would fit there (and not in the middle of the order). Additionally, If Gardy is so stuck in his ways about lineup construction, I'm definitely ready for someone else's new approach.
    1. peterb18's Avatar
      peterb18 -
      There was an old adage in baseball, and I think it applies to Hicks. "Can he hit the Curve Ball"--many great athletes could not overcome this. I think this is the key to his advancement. And hitting the curve is not an easy thing.
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oldgoat_MN View Post
      Wow. You realize that in the last 3 years
      Presley has never been as bad as Hicks has been this year, right?

      Just because you have confidence in Hicks doesn't automatically make anyone else at his position a 'no talent bum'. Presley can keep the position warm until someone comes along and wins it on merit rather than promise.
      He's jason tyner. He's a low ceiling 4th outfielder. Mediocrity. The type of player gardy seems to love.
    1. orangevening's Avatar
      orangevening -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      They had Clete Thomas and Antoan Richardson in the minors.
      Thank you for proving my point futher
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Marta Shearing View Post
      He's jason tyner. He's a low ceiling 4th outfielder. Mediocrity.
      Presley is a much better player than Tyner ever was.
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