On Sunday, Minnesota Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire announced that Aaron Hicks will be the team’s starting center fielder on opening day. This announcement finally puts an end to the spring long competition—that never really ended up being much competition at all—between Hicks, Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni. The announcement also came on the heels of Hicks going 4-for-4 on Sunday and raising his spring batting average to .350.
After losing out on the starting job in center field, Mastroianni will now be kept on as the fourth outfielder on the Twins’ roster. Mastroianni held his own this spring, but did not match the eye test that Hicks displayed during his impressive spring. Mastroianni hit .353 with zero HR, three RBI, 12 hits and five runs over 34 at-bats in 16 games played. Hicks, on the other hand, hit .350 with four HR, 16 RBI, 21 hits and 16 runs over 60 at-bats in 18 games played.
Ever since the team traded away Denard Span and Ben Revere, many around the organization believed the center field job was Hicks’ to lose. He has shown throughout his minor league career that his is a very talented player and could one day be a possible 15 HR/30 SB type of player at the top of the Twins’ lineup. Even more important, Hicks will be under the Twins’ control for a few years yet with his earliest year to hit free agency being in 2019. I wouldn’t be too concerned, however, as the Twins will be dependent on Hicks’ being a core player on this roster for the next decade as the next wave of talent finds its way to the majors.
With a team starved for publicity, it isn’t surprising to see a young and popular player like Hicks earn a job out of spring training. The fact that Hicks actually earned the spot with his playing time makes the situation even better. It may be a long season for the Twins, but if Hicks is any indication, the future looks bright in Minnesota.