Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Contemplating Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks in spring training: Despite
the grimace, he had a superb
spring. It was the regular season
that went sour on him.
I was trying Monday to puzzle out who the Twins might bring up when the rosters expand next month when my eye fell on Aaron Hicks' stat line since his demotion to Triple A Rochester at the the start of August.

.179/.276/.196? Yikes.

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.


  1. Good write-up, especially now that we can look back and reflect on Hicks's season, which for all intents and purposes is over as I agree I can't imagine him getting a call-up.

    However, I'd argue that this shows two problems with the Twins evaluation processes and disagree that there was solid evidence he warranted the starting position, at least stepping away from the hype and looking at it from what information we have.

    First, Hicks's AA season was good, but not great. In AA, he posted a .844 OPS with a significant number of strikeouts. Compare that to Sano, who currently has a .907 OPS but isn't even getting considered for a call-up this September. I'm not saying Sano should get a call up, but it's an interesting comparison for purposes of this discussion. However, in Sano's case, I would say if they even think they might hand him a job next year, they absolutely need to get him at bats in the bigs in September, something they didn't do with Hicks. One final note about Hicks's AA season is that he was coming off a pretty poor showing the previous year in high A, so he hadn't shown a lot of consistency.

    Hicks did have a good spring, but I think the Twins should be past the point where they are using spring training as a proving ground for their major league roster. There are several examples over the past couple seasons of players who excelled in spring training and then struggled during the season (Dozier, Parmelee, Gray, and now Ramirez and Hicks). It seems like it's time for the Twins to look at a player's larger body of work rather than focusing on spring training results.

    So, while I can understand that some people would have been disappointed if Hicks hadn't made it out of the gates, others of us wouldn't have been and besides the Twins hype of Hicks there wasn't a lot of concrete evidence, imo, when you step back and look at it that he should have been called up.

  2. If indeed Buxton could be in Minnesota by July, I really don't see the need to search for a more established center fielder. What would be the harm in letting one or more of Hicks/Mastroianni/Thomas hold down the job till Buxton's arrival?
    By the way, in a recent interview, Hicks stated that he has no intentions of playing winter ball, feels he needs some time off. Would the Twins force him to play?