Despite not having any at-bats above Double-A, Aaron Hicks became the Minnesota Twins’ starting center fielder for 2013 after a strong spring. He hit six home runs in May, but hit just .164 over the first two months of the season and was finally demoted to Triple-A last August.
Hicks has regularly looked overmatched at the plate during his time in the big leagues, as he’s struggled to find a balance between being patient and purely not being aggressive enough. He has particularly struggled as a left-handed hitter during his time with the Twins, with a slash-line of .184/.247/.305 and 67 strikeouts over 223 at-bats. While Hicks hasn’t been dramatically better as a right-handed hitter (against left-handers), slashing .224/.330/.398 over 98 at-bats, Monday’s news that he has decided to stop switch-hitting and be a right-handed hitter going forward was not a huge surprise.
Hicks went 2-for-4 on Monday afternoon against the Texas Rangers, with two singles and two strikeouts, which overall has to be considered a positive sign even with an adjustment period sure to come. So it’s worth wondering if the organization should have strongly suggested to Hicks that he give up hitting left-handed sooner, or let him reach that conclusion on his own as reports suggest.
Hicks has been a switch-hitter his entire career to this point, and he had an .828 OPS as a left-handed hitter at Double-A New Britain in 2012. So the move seems a bit premature based on that, particularly with little chance to hone his left-handed swing in Triple-A, and manager Ron Gardenhire has suggested that “in an ideal world” Hicks would be able to go down to the minors and work on facing right-handed pitching as a right-handed hitter. The organization’s roster mismanagement, especially as it relates to outfielders, is a different discussion but Hicks is the team’s only option in center field with Sam Fuld still out with a concussion.
While it’s true that Hicks needs to start turning his potential into on-field production soon, the Twins are not setting him up to succeed as he makes the transition to being exclusively a right-handed hitter. Once Fuld is healthy and the option to send Hicks down presents itself things may change, but right now I think there’s a good chance he goes back to being a switch-hitter before the end of the season.