With Opening Day 2014 only 10 days away, the Minnesota Twins still have several roster questions to answer, with perhaps the biggest of these asking who should start in center field.
Alex Presley and Aaron Hicks came into Spring Training set to compete for the job, but neither player has done much overall to standout so far this preseason. Hicks has come alive as of late, and while Presley entered 2014 as a favorite for the position, he now seems to be losing ground to the younger and quicker outfielder.
Through 14 spring games, Presley has reached base only eight times, and sports a .147/.237/.147 line. He continues to lack patience at the plate, and has failed in all three of his stolen base attempts this spring as well.
Hicks had similarly disappointing stats for the majority of Spring Training, but has since stepped up his play in Minnesota’s most recent contests. Combined, against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday and the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, Hicks went 5-for-6 with a double and a stolen base. Raising his Spring Training line to .375/.394/.563, Hicks may have surpassed Presley in their center field battle.
Twins management, however, doesn’t seem impressed by either player so far, and surely won’t be able to forget about Hicks’ rough start last season when making their final decision. Prior to 2013, Hicks produced a .370/.407/.644 spring line, but followed it up by hitting .192/.258/.338 in 81 games at the major league level, this including a 2-for-43 stretch starting the season at the leadoff position.
Hicks has great speed and an exceptional glove, but remains only a 24-year-old career .269 minor league hitter.
When it comes down to it, Spring Training statistics are really just noise, and mean nothing moving towards the regular season. It’s nice to see players performing rather than tanking only weeks before the season gets underway, but it’s important not to get lost in mostly meaningless numbers.
Many Twins fans like the idea of the flashier Hicks reclaiming the center field spot, and even Twins management, while not commenting on official decisions, seems to be waiting for Hicks to step up and surprise them.
Presley will make the 25-man roster as either a starter or fourth outfielder, and the two players’ battle could continue into the regular season. While Presley would be a much safer option for Minnesota at least to begin the year, don’t be surprised if Hicks’ is again rushed into the leadoff spot in the Twins’ 2014 Opening Day lineup.
He has a future in Minnesota, but that future needs to be protected by decisions made in the present. Prospects only have so much confidence to destroy, and hopefully Hicks is able to perform well in whatever role he attains this season.