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  • Second Chance for Aaron Hicks

    For me, (2013) is in the past. Last year is last year. I want to focus on this year and be able to be the guy I know I can be. Those were the words of Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks last month at Twins Fest.

    A year ago at this time, the Minnesota Twins had traded its two centerfielders, Denard Span and Ben Revere. Aaron Hicks was coming off a season at AA New Britain in which he hit .286/.384/.460 (.844) with 21 doubles, 11 triples, 13 home runs and had 32 stolen bases as a 22 year old. The Twins were touting his athleticism and talent from Twins Fest until spring training. Hicks then put up tremendous numbers in spring training and won the starting centerfield job. After that, little positive occurred for the 23 year old.

    Hicks was the Twins first round pick (14th overall) in 2008 out of high school in California. Four times, he was listed among the Top 100 prospects in baseball. Heading into the 2013 season, he was ranked #72 and a top five in the Twins system.

    He has a history of getting off to a slow start at each level. However, he has also shown the ability overcome the struggles and succeed with time. That just didnt happen with the Twins in 2013. In 313 plate appearances over 81 games, he hit .192/.239/.338 (.597) and struck out almost 27% of the time. Late in the year, he was sent down to Rochester where he fought injuries the rest of the season.

    Of course it bothered me. Normally, it takes a while for me to respond to the competition and then I respond. This year, Im ready to respond. I know what I did wrong. I did everything this offseason to put it all together to have a better year this year.

    After the season, there was talk about the Twins wanting Hicks to play winter ball. However, Hicks thought the right thing for him to do was to take time off during the offseason. I thought a little about it, but I felt like it would be better for me to relax and think about stuff I need to do and get ready for another season rather than go right into another season. Really, just rest the body up. Ive never had an offseason before. Ive always played somewhere. It felt good to just relax.

    Instead, Hicks did a few things to make himself better, mentally and physically. Ive just been mainly working out. I got a little heavier, trying to get a little bit stronger to do what I can to make the team again. And to be the guy I know I am.
    He got bigger. Im 210 now. I think I came in last year at about 200. I just felt like I wanted to be stronger, to be able to generate more power.

    He also continued to work out with and confide in a pretty solid baseball man. Who is the guy that he goes to when hes struggling? For me, itd be (Rod) Carew because hes been with me since AA and actually before that. Hell ask me questions about little stuff and he really helps me out a lot.

    He said that the two worked out and hit about three days each week, and sometimes on the weekend depending on their schedules.

    He also had time to think about what happened in 2013. This game is so crazy that you can be hot one day or hot for two weeks and all of a sudden it can be like youve never hit before. It just happened. Maybe going to AAA helped me clear my mind and be able to just play, just enjoy playing the game. I felt like up here maybe I was trying to do too much.

    Baseball is a game full of second chances. Hicks will compete with Alex Presley and Darin Mastroianni (who was removed from the 40-man roster this offseason) for the starting centerfield job for Opening Day 2014.

    So what are his thoughts as spring training is approaching? What is he expecting of himself this year? Im expecting to try to win a job again, just like last year. Hopefully its in the big leagues. If I go to AAA, do what I can to get back here.

    It is also fair to note that Hicks better understands spring training after his 2013 season. Spring training is different than the big leagues. I need to be focused and understand that its a process. Its not just going to be easy for me. Youre going to have to take your lumps here and there. It was also a good learning experience, that its a grind every day.

    Hicks knows that Byron Buxton is coming up quickly, but the two have a good relationship. We dont really ever talk baseball. Im just trying to get used to him. If I can, give him a little bit of wisdom here and there. Hes been doing pretty good, so Im just going to leave him alone.

    Aaron Hicks will be just 24 through the 2014 season, but it is still a big year for him. At some point during the season, he will get another opportunity with the Twins. He plays tremendous defense and has a very strong arm, but will he be able to make adjustments at the plate to put up box score filling numbers again? If so, he still has a chance to be a very good, everyday player.

    I had the worst of it all last year. I understand failure up here. Id rather go through that and deal with it. Now I know going into this year how to prepare.
    Comments 60 Comments
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      How about 296 feet down the line?
      That's certainly one possibility.


      I wonder what his spray charts would have looked like from each side.
    1. chuchadoro's Avatar
      chuchadoro -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Sure, we're all fans. I'm just saying that the Twins have likely never considered it. Certainly not publically.
      Of course we're all fans but some of us would be considered popular Twins bloggers first and foremost (hint: not me). Your response to the idea of Hicks abandoning switch hitting just seemed a little dismissive, as if it was a laughable suggestion made only by fans who don't know ISOp from Ice T. I apologize if I inferred too much from your statement, I just wanted to point out Nick's blog post from six months ago asking the same question.

      Hicks was bad as a lefty at A, A+ and last year. He was pretty good in New Britain in 2012. Maybe not a lost cause but not much to get my hopes up from the numbers I've looked at. How much can Hicks improve as a lefty? Is it too late in his career to abandon switch hitting? Could he actually be any worse taking his natural right handed cut vs RHP? I think these are worthy questions (plus FA is over and ST hasn't started yet. There are only so many prospect lists one can look at).
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I'm with ABJ. I don't think 2013 was a lost year. It was a learning experience for sure. And there were some ugly stretches. But man they asked a lot of him! I think their plan was to give him frequent breaks with Mastro, but he got hurt on the last day of spring.

      So there's Hicks taking his five at bats out of the lead-off hole with no one to back him up against some of the toughest pitching in baseball. Not to make excuses, but this was mostly on the Twins for asking too much of him. To his credit, he also showed some resilience and an ability to make adjustments. It didn't show up in the numbers so much because his hole was so deep to start the year. But if you throw out his first soul crushing slump, he wasn't bad.

      It'll be interesting to see how they handle him out of spring training. Roster spots might be tough to come by (with Kubel, Bartlett and Guerrier still needing spots), and Hicks and Presley are the only guys who can play center on the 40 man. If the season started today, they would both be on the roster. And if you're going to do that, Hicks needs to be the starter.

      Most people around here around here assume (me included) that he'll go back to AAA to earn his way up. But they didn't force Dozier to do that last year. Instead, they gave him a new position and threw him back in the fire. For the first two months, that experiment was not looking too good. But they were patient. And they were rewarded for their patience.

      Let's say they make him the starter and ask him to hit 9th until he can earn his way back to the top of the order. Presley can be the guy Mastro was not able to be last year, giving Hicks breaks from the grind. Seems like a reasonable approach to me.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I don't buy the whole leadoff vs 9th thing.....but if he's a future very good MLB player, that shouldn't be an issue for him. If it is, then maybe he's not really cut out to be a good MLB player. But then, maybe I underestimate the pressure.....

      But none of that has anything to do with this lefty righty splits.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      cmat - can you see scenarios in which Guerrier and/or Bartlett make the opening day roster?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      cmat - can you see scenarios in which Guerrier and/or Bartlett make the opening day roster?
      Guerrier probably needs more rehab, come to think of it. But I give Bartlett a better than 50% shot. I probably am the only person around here so optimistic, but the Twins sure liked what they saw of him when he worked out for them. If he is anything like the guy he was in TB, he's the best shortstop in the organization. Big if, I know.

      Perhaps it is wishful thinking. Reading between the lines, I think the Twins expect him to make the team. They have told Florimon that he will have to earn his job back. Ryan has said it is a four-way competition, giving Bartlett and Santana more props than I would have. We'll see.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      cmat - can you see scenarios in which Guerrier and/or Bartlett make the opening day roster?
      I certainly don't think it's likely, especially for Bartlett. It's always a little more likely to shuffle things around in the bullpen, but unless Guerrier really looks great he's unlikely to crack the team either. Injuries combined with superior spring training performance are the only ways either is going to go north with the team.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by huhguy View Post
      Is what if he has a superman spring...he will still be sent down to AAA because once again we wont know if its real...
      What better options do the Twins have? I think the only reason to send him down to AAA is to develop his hitting further. I think he starts the season with the big league club with a short leash.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Someone should inform Hicks that a discussion about him also included a discussion about Mickey Mantle. That should be a confidence boost!
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jmlease1 View Post
      I certainly don't think it's likely, especially for Bartlett. It's always a little more likely to shuffle things around in the bullpen, but unless Guerrier really looks great he's unlikely to crack the team either. Injuries combined with superior spring training performance are the only ways either is going to go north with the team.
      I think it comes down to his health. If he is healthy, he has a good shot. The bar in my eyes is a AA/AAA SS in Florimon. Bartlett has put together several seasons that I personally think Florimon is not capable of:

      2006 - .760 OPS
      2007 - .699 OPS
      2009 - .875 OPS
      2010 - .675 OPS

      It is tough to look at Bartlett's 2012 numbers as he only had 98 PA. But even his bad 2011 with a .615 OPS was better than Florimon's career OPS of .603.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I think it comes down to his health. If he is healthy, he has a good shot. The bar in my eyes is a AA/AAA SS in Florimon. Bartlett has put together several seasons that I personally think Florimon is not capable of:

      2006 - .760 OPS
      2007 - .699 OPS
      2009 - .875 OPS
      2010 - .675 OPS

      It is tough to look at Bartlett's 2012 numbers as he only had 98 PA. But even his bad 2011 with a .615 OPS was better than Florimon's career OPS of .603.
      Right. Bartlett's a .702 career OPS player. He's an 18.6 career WAR player. Forimon is about replacement level. If Bartlett is healthy (which he is, according to reports) for the first time in two years, he could easily win the job.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      Someone should inform Hicks that a discussion about him also included a discussion about Mickey Mantle. That should be a confidence boost!
      Also Mozart, Einstein, Da Vinci, and Neil Armstrong.

      The five tools, apparently:
      • write music
      • think up equations
      • draw real good
      • fly real high
      • play baseball
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "Most people around here around here assume (me included) that he'll go back to AAA to earn his way up." I said he should ideally do that but ideal would mean someone better than Pressley to hold the spot. I am generally in favor of everyone proving (or reproving themselves in the minors before the major league promotion). For your reasons I am in favor of just putting Hicks out there again.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      cmat - can you see scenarios in which Guerrier and/or Bartlett make the opening day roster?
      As far as Bartlett goes, a day ago, I'd say no way, but based on what LEN3 is reporting out of Fort Myers today and the fact that Gardy likes him, I think that there is a possibility.

      I don't think that Guerrier will be healthy enough to be ready by opening day.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      To paraphrase from Princess Bride.
      Vizzini: I can't compete with you physically, and you're no match for my brains. Man in Black: You're that smart?
      Vizzini: Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Mozart, Einstein, Da Vinci, and Neil Armstrong ?
      Man in Black: Yes.
      Vizzini: Morons.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      As far as Bartlett goes, a day ago, I'd say no way, but based on what LEN3 is reporting out of Fort Myers today and the fact that Gardy likes him, I think that there is a possibility.

      I don't think that Guerrier will be healthy enough to be ready by opening day.
      LEN3 showed up today. I haven't read his report, but Bartlett's been here quite awhile. He's been working hard and looking good. He eventually would like to coach, but is trying to make the team and I'd give him a really good shot at that. Jason knows what it takes and has kind of taken his own approach to get there. For instance yesterday he skipped bp and worked with the medicine ball and then took infield on the half field, fielding alot of ground balls. When he does bp he's hitting line drives. I give him the edge to be on the team.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      LEN3 showed up today. I haven't read his report, but Bartlett's been here quite awhile. He's been working hard and looking good. He eventually would like to coach, but is trying to make the team and I'd give him a really good shot at that. Jason knows what it takes and has kind of taken his own approach to get there. For instance yesterday he skipped bp and worked with the medicine ball and then took infield on the half field, fielding alot of ground balls.

      When he does bp he's hitting line drives. I give him the edge to be on the team.

      Can you extrapolate one step further, Halsey? Is he looking good enough to fill the Jamey Carroll utility role, or is he regaining some semblance of his game level from 2009?
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      At the risk of beating the topic to death, repeating myself from previous posts as well as echoing others here, Hicks has always been a very talented player, well thought of, and a top prospect. One poor, somewhat injury filled and rushed season should not make some so quick to judge his future. As has been pointed out, he obviously is not the first or last young player to stumble upon first introduction to MLB.

      Hicks has reportedly shown a pattern his entire young career with taking some time to "catch up" to his level, starting slowly at first. 2009 and 2010 at Beloit are full season examples where he produced OK numbers the first year, and greatly improved all numbers the following year. 2011 was rather disappointing at high A, before rebounding in a BIG way in 2012 at AA. As has been pointed out here previously, after an initial awful beginning to last season, he was actually showing improvement at the plate last season before injuries seemed to stall him. I wonder how we might be talking about Mr. Hicks at this point if he had better health last season and had continued to improve over the course of the season, even if slowly.

      I know this, if he can't set the world on fire, but can hold his own, gain experience, growth and development and simply provide excellent defense in CF, and hit even in the .240 range with an OB% above .300 with double digit HR's, 20+SB's, push 30 DBL's or so, he is an asset for our club near the bottom of the order. Not only for some power and speed, but for the defense he brings to our pitching staff, as well as allowing Presley to play LF, more appropriate for his skill level, and keeps Willingham mostly at DH and not in the field.

      Now, as to the future, I think he's more than capable of a great deal more. But for now, I'd be very happy with that kind of production for 2014. I think the entire club is made better by his presence.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Guerrier was brought in for some insurance, not a bad thing, but insurance for after the season starts as I doubt he's even ready for opening day. Which is fine. Unless we are hit by a rash of injuries, I feel we're deep enough to withstand a bruise or strain or two to the bullpen arms in ST.

      As for Bartlett, I felt he was a cheap, risk-free signing to compete for a bench spot. Probably after spending some time getting additional at bats at AAA shaking off rust. But if he is truly healthy, and can be something close to the player he was before 2011 it would be a big boost for the team in general. Not only for some speed and a solid bat and plate discipline, but as an experienced and calming influence on the field and in the dugout. He couldn't do enough to hope to pull the Twins over the top of some magic summit, but he could nudge a few players and the Twins record further up the slope toward the top of that peak.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Can't give up on Hicks. And as Thrylos said, the Twins need Hicks to be successful for them to be successful. He's been a top 15 prospect. He's a stud in the OF, I dare say he's got a solid chance to win a GG at some point. He seems to make adjustments (historically).

      I think even if he's only a .265-.280 hitter with 15-20 HR and 15-25 SB with that solid defense he's a great addition to the Twins. Better value than Jacque Jones, but a shade below Shane Mack.

      I think BA got it right.

      72 Aaron Hicks of, Twins
      Age: 23. ETA: 2013.
      Bat: 55. Power: 55. Speed: 55. Defense: 65. Arm: 70.

      AVG = .270 - .285
      HR = 15-20
      SB = 15-20
      Defense = Plus
      Arm = Plus-Plus
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