Aaron Hicks had a monster exhibition game on Thursday as he took one step closer to seizing the Minnesota Twins’ starting centerfield job. The 23-year-old homered three times against the Philadelphia Phillies, leading the Twins to a 10-6 victory. On the day, Hicks was 4-5 with 6 RBI–not bad production from your leadoff hitter.
There was some irony on the field Thursday when Ben Revere started opposite Hicks for the Phillies. Had Revere not been traded to the Philadelphia this offseason, Hicks wouldn’t even be considered for the starting centerfield position.
The Twins announced that the battle for centerfield would be a three-man race between Hicks, Joe Benson and Darin Mastorianni. Thus far, Hicks has outplayed his competition by going 11-27 with four home runs. Even though Hicks is playing really great baseball this Spring Training, putting him on the Major League roster will be a tough decision for the Twins.
The former first round draft pick is full of potential. Hicks has a great arm, hits from both sides of the plate and is quick enough to beat out infield hits. But in his young career, he’s developed a reputation for being a slow developer. He spent three years at the single A level before making the jump to double A in 2012. Having a player skip triple A isn’t outrageous, but it may be wishful thinking to have Hicks make the jump.
Perhaps the biggest problem for the club is that Twins fans want to see Hicks at Target Field. There has been plenty of buzz around the youngster ever since they drafted him with the 14th overall pick in 2008. And in a year where there isn’t much to look forward to as a Twins fan, the development of a young, talented outfielder would bring some fans to the ballpark.
But, realistically, the Twins are not going to compete this year. A strong argument could be made to let Hicks marinade in the minors for another year. This way, he could continue to develop in a low-profile environment while gradually climbing his way to the big leagues. This makes a lot of sense for the Twins’ front office as well. By keeping him in the minors for another year, that will delay his arbitration and free agency by a year.
While this may make the most sense rationally, the Twins will have a hard time justifying that move if Hicks continues to play the way he has up to this point.