This afternoon, in the first televised game of the spring, young Aaron Hicks treated Twins fans to a 3-home run, 4 hit, 6 RBI performance against the Phillies. A couple of weeks ago I reminded myself not to make a big deal out of Spring Training results. That being said, Hicks has been very impressive in these first two weeks of the spring. Here are some things that have stood out to me so far with the kid.
Aside from the home runs, Hicks’ patience and eye at the plate is outstanding. Although he hasn’t drawn a walk yet these first few games, he consistently gets into 3 ball counts. He makes pitchers work, much like Denard Span does, but also has some pop in his bat – which neither Span or Ben Revere really possessed. His career .379 OBP in the minors leads me to believe that even if his bat slumps throughout a season, he will still be capable of getting on base via the walk consistently.
By all accounts from those who have actually seen him play down in Florida, he is as smooth as they come. Ron Gardenhire said after trading his two center fielders that he wanted Hicks to get every chance to be his guy come Opening Day. Hicks has withstood the pressure and really separated himself so far from his competition for the job – Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson.
I was a little disappointed today with his defense, however, which was supposed to be the skill he possessed that was surely “Major League-ready”. Hicks seemed to lack some aggressiveness going after two balls hit to the right-center field gap early in the game. Maybe that was just “mother nature” playing tricks on the ball and disrupting his route, but I was really hoping to see him make a good play on those two hits. Then, on the first one at the warning track, he completely missed both cutoff men and turned a double into a triple. The runner on third then scored on the next at bat on a ground ball to second for the 2nd out. If not for the overthrow that ground ball makes it two outs with a runner on 3rd without the run. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess.
The other disappointment (how could I be disappointed in a 3 HR, 6 RBI game right?) came in Hicks’ second at bat with the bases loaded. If I remember right, he struck out on three pitches to end the inning. In that situation I’m not sure if it was excitement and a desire to be a hero, but that was the type of at bat you would expect from a normal rookie – something I want so bad for Hicks to be more than. In his defense, the pitcher was Cliff Lee, who is about as good a pitcher as anyone he’ll see this year.
All of this said, the Twins have said that he will get a shot to head north with the Twins for Opening Day. Knowing that, there would need to be a major drop-off in his play the rest of March for me to believe any reason the Twins would give us fans in sending him to Rochester at the end of the month. This isn’t about team control and service time. If he’s worth paying at the end of his arbitration years, the Twins should pay him no matter what year it is! It makes too much sense if the Twins truly want to win in 2013 to name Aaron Hicks the everyday center fielder. He’s the best center fielder in the organization right now, and gives the Twins their best chance to win. Period.
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