|Aaron Hicks' remarkable over-the-head|
grab off former Twin Chris Parmelee
on July 6.
When Buxton arrived about a month ago, I figured Hicks had gotten his last shot at the job. But three things happened: One, Buxton did not immediately shine. Two, Buxton sprained his thumb. Three, Hicks has been a sharply better player since stepping back into the lineup.
It's not just a small sample size, but a tiny one: 10 games, July 3 through July 12. Ten games in which Hicks has put up a slash line of .323/.436/.645. And it's not that he's been abnormally lucky: his batting average on balls in play is a normal .296 in that stretch. We know he's not that good -- nobody is -- but I'll guarantee he hasn't had a comparable 10-game stretch in his career.
His two homers this month came right-handed, no real surprise, but he's also crushed a pair of doubles left-handed that could have gone out of some more friendly yards than Target Field. He's drawn seven walks and fanned only three times in those 10 games.
Power and a batting eye. He sure hasn't demonstrated those skills in the majors before. He just looks like a different hitter, one who has a clue from at-bat to at-bat.
Hicks' slash line for the season, .266/.333/.387, is not eye-popping, but it's close to league average, and that's sufficient for a good-glove center fielder. He's pushed his way out of the very bottom of the lineup, hitting seventh most games, and right now there's a good case for him to move ahead of Rosario as well.
It may be another month before Buxton is a factor again, and Hicks may well revert to the weak hitter he's been until July. (He was hitting .247/.293/.301 coming into the month.) But if Hicks settles into a .270/.340/.400 groove (slightly better than his slash line to date), the Twins may well opt to give Buxton some Triple A time when his thumb is healed.
This doesn't change the long-term status of the two. Buxton is still the center fielder of the future. Hicks, however, now has his best claim ever as the center fielder of the present -- and in a pennant chase, that matters.