MLB Rumors: Minnesota Twins Have Heir Apparent to Denard Span in Center Field?

Rick Osentosk–USA Today Sports

The Minnesota Twins have created a competition in center field for the 2013 season. GM Terry Ryan traded starting CF Denard Span to the Washington Nationals during the MLB Winter Meetings. Then, only a few days later, Ryan dealt speedy Ben Revere, Span’s obvious incumbent, to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Assuming the Twins do not add any new outfielders before the season, it appears the Aaron HicksDarrin Mastroianni and Joe Benson will be vying to patrol CF at Target Field this season.

If there has been one steady position for the Minnesota Twins over the last few decades, it has been center field. Soon after Minnesota Legend Kirby Puckett retired, Torii Hunter took over the spot. A decade (and several gold gloves) later Hunter left via free agency and the young Span took the job. That was in 2007. Now, Twins’ fans wonder who is the next man in line. And while Ryan has declared a wide open race, the heir apparent is 23 year-old Aaron Hicks.

Hicks was drafted straight out of high school in 2008 when the Twins took him with their 1st round draft pick (14th overall). The 6’ 2” switch hitter plays good defense and has an above average arm. He has the speed to be a true center fielder which will also help him swipe some bases (32 SBs in 2012). He has had a few hiccups in his minor league career but rebounded nicely in 2012 with a .286/.384/.460 split after a tough 2011 campaign.

While the Twins seem committed to the idea that Hicks is the center fielder of the future, there are two schools of thought when putting the kid on the big league roster in 2013. It unlikely that Minnesota will be competing in a relatively tough AL Central this year. This gives the Twins the option of letting Hicks break camp as the starting center fielder to gain a year of experience while the front office attempts to build a winning roster. With that same sentiment, it also makes sense to let Hicks cultivate his skills for another year in the minors in preparation of putting a competitive squad on the field in 2014.

I tend to side with the latter thinking. As excited as Twins fans are to see Hicks raw talent at the major league level, it is important to put him in a position to succeed. The jump from Double-A to the big club can be a huge step and Hicks has, at times, had problems hitting for average in the minors. He tends to be a pull hitter and it will be essential for him to take off-speed pitches the other way, something he admittedly must work on, to find success in the bigs.

However, Hicks seems up to the challenge. “I’m going to do everything I can to break camp with the team and stay up there,” he said.

If he does have a strong 2013 Spring Training he will likely find himself atop the Twins CF depth chart and with his skill-set he’ll undoubtedly be fun to watch. Either way, the hope is Hicks will be ready to rock once the Twins rebuild and compete for another AL Central Title.

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