In my Best Quotes article yesterday, I included Hicks' comments about not playing winter ball. Needed a break. Mentally as much as physically. Didn't want to jump from such a bad place right in another season. I tend to agree. Needed to clear his mind.
I think I've posted this before in other threads on Aaron Hicks but if you throw out those awful first ten games, he still put up odd looking numbers but for the OPS buff, they were at least "ok" April 15th - July 31st.
He still had a 3 - 1 K/BB ratio which sucks but he put some power out there took a few more walks and at least made some contact. It wouldn't take a lot for him to switch that to a 260/.330/.420 line. A little more discipline and a little more luck on BABIP could get him there. I'm confident he'll be much better this year. May never be an allstar but I think he can at least be a solid role player.
.222 .290 .397 .687
Also, Denard Span's OPS over the past four years is .703 to give a little context.
I know that we're all hoping Hicks turns it around this year. I saw a lot of games that he played in last year (more than I probably want to admit). Hicks definitely showed flashes last year. I'm expecting a rebound from him this year. I'm not saying he's going to be a MVP candidate next year, but I'm expecting him to kick it up closer to his minor league numbers next year.
I feel that Hicks was put in a position to fail from the start. Not only did he skip AAA, but he was thrust right into the leadoff spot. Hitting leadoff may not seem like much, but to a young kid who likely isn't even ready for the big leagues, it's additional pressure.
His slash line in the leadoff spot was .047/.109/.047 (.156 OPS) with a 43% K rate. I'm sure a lot of that had to do with adjusting to the league along with facing the likes of Verlander(as some pointed out), but I don't think the additional pressure of leading off helped.
When moved down in the lineup his OPS hovered around .700 and his K rate dropped under 25%.
I think Hicks will be an above average player for years to come with some good years in his prime. His K% will always keep his batting average down, but his skill set of speed, defense, power and plate discipline will make him quite valuable.
.240/.320/.400 with 20+ SB and plus defense(especially at a corner) is about what I'd expect from him.
I think the perfect comp to Hicks is Chris Young. They have an almost identical skill set. They also both struggle against RH pitching and mash LH pitching.
I think he should start at triple A again this year and bring him up soon as he shows that he his ready for majors also keep expectations off him when he arrives. I still think he play into twins future as corner outfield if he can bring same numbers he has from minors to majors. He with Buxton in outfield would make it one of very good defensive outfields and will help cover for Arcia who will be in the outfield but will be playing more for his bat than his defensive abilities. With Hicks and Buxton the centerfielder can cheat more to position that Arcia is in because Hicks could cover the gap left by cheating the other way for Arcia. I think if Hicks develops numbers he has in minors he will be one of better outfielders in the Majors.
Disagreeing with the group-think syndrome--Hicks wasn't rushed! He spent nearly 5 full years in the Twins system before April 2013. This is like any college athlete including a red-shirt season. Rookies in any sport typically struggle--and we should expect it--irrespective of how many years are spent in "developmental leagues". There is something of a "Rookie hazing" in MLB (other sports too)--many a "close" pitch was a called strike for Hicks. Hicks' difficulties were magnified by batting him leadoff and being "encouraged" to take pitches, to work the count (and the pitcher). I am convinced Hicks would have performed much better if slotted 8th or 9th in the lineup rather than 1st.
Other indications about Hicks and his "struggles". Hicks was assigned to extended Spring training (in his first full-season) to convert him to a switch-hitter. This should have been noticed as a huge red flag, that hicks really wasn't an heir apparent to Hunter. Hicks was a 1st round choice. If there was (is!) a problem with breaking balls from RHPs, it should have been noticed before he was drafted--and be fully incorporated in his pre-draft evaluation. Ergo, Hicks was over evaluated and likely shouldn't have been a first round selection. To me, there were plenty of indicators that Hicks would struggle at first, especially when tasked as a leadoff hitter, and Hicks knowing full well that Buxton was deemed "the future". There is also way too much faith in experience at Rochester as a precursor to success at Minnesota especially in light of the numerous examples of "struggling players" to outright flops that have come through the Twins system.
Finally, (signals end of my rant!) Hunter wasn't an example of an "overwhelmed player" examined the stated statistics of the article. Hunter was "disciplined"--and he responded with the hoped-for ferocity in his performance when he wasted restored to the active roster. Hicks would be an example of "overwhelmed", but not Hunter.
Hicks began switch-hitting in high school.
Hicks would be the best defensive outfielder on the roster right now and I would argue the 2nd best overall outfielder on the roster behind Arcia. So he had a bad half season. Its not like this team is stocked with offensive weapons. Cripes, Dozier hits .245 and people are calling him the next Joe Morgan. Give the kid a chance and he'll bounce back. I'll give you that he got off to a horrendous start but he was actually starting to stabilze when they sent him down. Its WAY too soon to cut bait with Hicks.
What about De Aza as a comp? Similar age/level progression, similar early struggles, similar BB/K profiles. Hicks probably has a hint more power.
He may rebound and have a nice career at CF but it will be on another team. Unfortunately for Hicks I feel his window is closing too quickly. Buxton could move up quickly enough to only give Hicks short time as a starter. Additionally, his bat does not seem powerful enough to play a corner outfield spot. My hope is that he rebounds so he has the highest trade value because he will be on the blocks by sometime in 2015.
I wouldn't rule out a corner job. He has the raw power. If he improves his pitch selection, he could be a decent corner guy, with his glove and arm as value adds.