After a stint that failed miserably for the Minnesota Twins, Aaron Hicks may need another big spring to prove he deserves another chance.
Hicks has long been lauded for his tools, but it wasn’t until 2012 at double-A that he put it all together, producing 13 home runs, 32 steals and an OPS of .844 in 563 plate appearances. The Twins got ahead of themselves in 2013, however, and Hicks got off to a 2-for-56 start to his major league career. The nightmare never ended for Hicks as he finished the season with a .597 OPS in 313 plate appearances.
What Hicks does well is play stellar defense with a rocket arm and good speed, in addition to owning great on-base skills at the plate. Unfortunately, Hicks excellent eye at the plate in the minor leagues did not transfer over to the majors. In 500 total games across parts of seven minor league seasons Hicks has never posted a walk rate below 12 percent. However, Hicks posted just a 7.7 percent walk rate in 2013.
One would assume that rate will inch closer to the double digits Hicks routinely put up in the minors, but he must improve his pitch recognition at the major league level in order to meet his potential.
As a strong defender who can get on base and create some havoc on the basepaths, Hicks is a valuable player, although he may not ever be the star some had projected him to be. The issue with Hicks is that his power has not developed and he strikes out too much to have a strong batting average. He’ll make up for some of that with his patience at the plate, but the bottom line is Hicks will need to develop the rest of his offensive tools soon if he is going to claim a long-term job on the Twins.
It is only a matter of time before the consensus no. 1 prospect in baseball, Byron Buxton, takes center field away from Hicks. During the precious time that Hicks can lay claim to his position, he needs to quickly prove to the Twins that he belongs in their long-term plans. Currently, the Twins have Hicks in center field, Josh Willingham in left and Oswaldo Arcia in right.
With Willingham a free agent after this season, Hicks should still fit into the Twins outfield once Buxton is here to stay. However, Hicks will need to develop his power, cut down on his strikeouts and transfer over his minor league approach at the plate in order to secure his future with the Twins.