From the moment that Aaron Hicks was drafted out of high school in Long Beach, California with the 14th pick in the 2008 draft there were expectations. Hicks was supposed to be the next in a great line of modern day All-Star centerfielders that started with Kirby Puckett, and then on to Torii Hunter, who was followed by Denard Span, and briefly by Ben Revere. It took him some time to figure things out as he didn’t make his Twins debut until opening day 2013. With the drafting of Byron Buxton in the 2012 draft at 2nd overall and his struggles in 2013 the question has to be asked what the future is for Aaron Hicks. Will the Twins move him to right field when Buxton arrives late in 2014, will they trade him for pitching, will they let him battle Buxton for the starting job or none of the above. People should not forget how talented Aaron Hicks is and as a longtime supporter of his there is little doubt that whatever they decide to do with him he will be successful as he has star written all over him.
Aaron Hicks came into the 2008 draft with dual options as he had a scholarship to USC waiting for him. He also had the choice do I want to be an outfielder where he was a five tool outfielder or do I want to be a pitcher where he was clocked at 97 in high school? He made it very clear prior to draft that he wanted to be an outfielder and some say that made him drop out of the top ten. The Twins had no problem with him as a switch-hitting outfielder and snatched him up with the 14th pick in the draft. He signed quickly with the Twins and finished the year with the GCL Twins where he hit .318 with 32 runs scored and 12 stolen bases along with an impressive .409 OBP. After starting the 2009 season in extended spring training, Hicks got the call to skip Elizabethton and instead go up to class A Beloit. In 67 games he hit .251 with 43 runs scored with 40 walks and a .353 OBP. The decision was made that he would repeat Beloit in 2010 still at just age 20. In his encore in 2010 he hit .279 in 115 games with 86 runs along with 88 walks and an impressive .401 OBP.
In 2011 Hicks moved up to A+ Fort Myers and in 122 games hit just .242 with 79 runs and 78 walks along with a respectable .354 OBP. In 2012 Hicks took his talents up to AA New Britain and had a breakout year. In 129 games he hit .286 with 100 runs scored along with twenty-one doubles, eleven triples, and a career high thirteen homeruns with a career him thirty two stolen bases. He had 79 walks and a very good .844 OPS at AA. In the offseason going into 2013 the Twins traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere so Hicks was given the opportunity to win the CF job in Spring Training and that is exactly what he did. He hit .392 with five homeruns and eighteen rbi’s to win the starting job opening day. The start of the season could not have gone any worse for Hicks as he began the season in a 2-35 slump to get behind the eight ball. After being horrible in April and May he has steadied himself in June and July hitting .271 and .280 respectively and having an OBP over.300 in both of those months. He has shown power as well as his OPS have been over .800 both of those months as well. He is still hitting just .197, but when you compare to when he was hitting .057 that is much improved and there is no reason to think that he can’t hit close to .250 in a tumultuous rookie season for Hicks.
When looking at what the future holds for Hicks can’t be told without talking about Byron Buxton. Buxton currently is the top prospect in all of baseball right now and is drawing comparisons to Mike Trout. As much of a Hicks guy I am there is no doubt that Buxton is the superior prospect. He just is faster, makes better angles, and better instincts than Hicks and that is saying something. So the question becomes do you play him in left field or right field. The answer to that question can be answered in two words and that is Yankee Stadium. Anyone who saw that throw the other night where he made a throw from near the warning track in center field to third base on the fly on a ball that he says slipped out of his hand is saying something. You typically like to have your best arm in right field and there is no doubt that if you have an outfield of Arcia, Buxton, and Hicks that Aaron Hicks is your best arm.
With that question out of the way, the real question for the Twins to decide is with Buxton about a year away from being ready should the Twins consider trading Hicks for pitching similar to the way they did Denard Span last winter. Hicks needs to become more consistent before you consider this, but even now Hicks has value and if he continues to develop the way that I think he will there is little doubt you have to consider it. With the Twins philosophy of not going into free agency to get big time pitching and the Twins with a plethora of outfield talent you have to consider it. With guys like Buxton, Kepler, Walker coming up in the not so distant future along with Arcia there is outfield depth. So the question is if you can get major league pitching in return for Hicks do you consider trading him?
So if you decide to keep Hicks there are questions about Hicks. I asked prospect expert Jeremy Nygaard his thoughts on Hicks and some of the same questions that I posed to you. The first question I asked with the emergence of Byron Buxton what he thought the future held for Hicks and he responded, “Hicks will be the CF until Buxton is ready and then I think we'll see the Twins do what the Angels have done with two CFs, put one in the corner. Personally, I think that it will be Hicks moving over the RF. Regardless, CF is a premium defensive position, so having two elite-level defenders is a good problem to have. Puckett and Hunter both moved to a corner, Hicks will too.” I then asked him, in your opinion when Buxton arrives will Hicks be used as trade bait and he responded, “There's a lot of moving parts that would have to settle before that question can be answered. I don't think it's as simple as "Well, Byron is coming up tomorrow, so we better trade Hicks." If Arcia can hold his own in the outfield..?. If Rosario can stick at 2B...? If Sano can stick at 3B...? What about Kepler...? Ultimately all of those questions would play into any answer involving moving any excess depth, which, again, would be a good problem.” The final question I asked was based on questions about Hicks batting style as some view him as too passive at the plate. He is often also accused of being a poor left handed hitter so maybe he should quit switch-hitting. I asked Jeremy both of those topics and here is how he responded, “Having watched Hicks multiple times over his two years in Beloit, I've seen his left-handed hitting come a long way. It's going to continue to progress. He can be passive at the plate, yes... but I think it's easier to teach a guy to be aggressive than it is to teach him to be more selective. As he continues to get comfortable, we'll continue to see improvement. In fact, I think we've seen some glimpses already.”
Aaron Hicks has had his problems going up through the system as he is a very streaky hitter and many have questioned whether he will be the prospect that we all are hoping that he can be. I think he can be everything that we all hoped he would be as he is a very patient hitter and the more comfortable he gets the walks will come up and the strikeouts will go down. He has a cannon for an arm and can play elite defense at any of the three positions. Whether he is in center or right, there is no doubt in my mind that Aaron Hicks future is very bright and there is no reason in my mind that he can’t be an all-star. If the Twins decide to trade him which I don’t think they will because his ceiling is too high, but if they did they should be able to get elite talent in return. Aaron Hicks is another piece to the puzzle to make the Twins relevant again along with Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer, Oswaldo Arcia, and Eddie Rosario. With that line of guys coming up the future of the Twins is very very bright.
Let me know what you think of this article by either leaving a comment in the comment box or shooting me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on twitter @texastwinsfan. Starting tomorrow I will be beginning my top 60 twins prospects with stats, estimated time of arrivals, and something Twin fans should know about them. Check back tomorrow for prospects 60-51.