|Aaron Hicks in spring training: Despite|
the grimace, he had a superb
spring. It was the regular season
that went sour on him.
This is looking like a worst-case scenario. The argument against pushing a prospect up the ladder is that exposing the player to a more difficult level prematurely can be damaging.
That Hicks was pushed up the ladder this spring is undeniable. I cannot criticize the Twins for doing so; I would have been vocally disappointed had he opened 2013 in Triple A. He had played very well in Double A in 2012 and he had clearly outplayed his competition for the center field job in spring training.
But bringing Hicks from Double A to the majors clearly did not work for him, and this belated month in Triple A isn't going any better.
Where do the Twins, and Hicks, go from here?
A September return, which I figured was a given when the Twins demoted him, seems pointless now. Giving him some time away from the field is probably the better idea. Then a stint in winter ball seems likely.
There's still time to salvage Hicks. He has two option seasons left. He's only 23 (turns 24 in October). He had several impressive moments in the majors; the talent to be a good major league player is there.
But certainly the Twins cannot have him prominent in their plans for 2014.
Nor has Clete Thomas cemented his place on the roster, much less the lineup.
And for all the merited hype Byron Buxton has received (his slash line in Fort Myers is .328/.420/.495 and rising), I cannot imagine the Twins bringing him straight to the majors next spring. Well, that's putting it a bit too strongly; I can imagine it, but it's not going to happen. (Kent Hrbek went straight from high-A ball to the majors in 1981, as did Rod Carew in 1967, so it's not completely unprecedented, just exceedingly rare.)
Which all adds up to this: The Twins are likely this winter to look for a more established center fielder who would be an upgrade on what they've gotten out of the position in 2013 but is not going to be a roadblock on Buxton.
If Buxton is Mike Trout 2.0, he'll be playing center field in Minnesota by July.