Monday, August 13, 2012

Arcia, Hicks might have earned a look

While the 2012 season has been a little bit painful at the big league level, there have been plenty of positive stories out of the minor leagues for the Twins. Miguel Sano, the player widely considered as the best in the Twins organization, is showing his power potential by sitting near the top 10 in nearly every offensive category for the farm system. Byron Buxton and J.O. Berrios were the top two picks for the Twins in June's draft and they have both already been promoted to Elizabethton in the last week.  Berrios has been nearly untouchable so far in his outings and Buxton has put together some decent numbers on the offensive side of the ball.

But searching for positive performances is not just relegated to the lower levels of the minor leagues for the Twins. Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks are putting together their best seasons as professionals at the Double-A level with the New Britain Rock Cats. Hicks has spent the entire season with the Rock Cats and Arcia started the year at Fort Myers before being called up in the middle of June. Both of these players have been highly thought of in the past and they each seem to be putting together a season worth getting noticed for in 2012.

Hicks was the Twins first round pick in 2008 when the Twins took him out of high school with the 14th pick. His minor league career has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride since that point but he has always had the tools to be thought of as one of the top prospects for the Twins. The switch-hitting outfielder has struggled in the past to even out his splits from each side of the plate. This season has seen some improvement as he has hit .293/.371/.526 with 13 extra-base hits in 116 at-bats from the right side of the plate. When he switches to the left side, he is batting .276/.385/.427 with 25 extra-base hits in 279 at-bats. His 12 home runs this season are split evenly between both sides of the plate and his 27 steals are a career high.

Arcia is a year and a half younger than Hicks and he missed part of last season with an injury. This explains some of the reasoning that the Twins used to start Arcia in the Florida State League at the beginning of the year. He has made up for lost time since being called up to the Eastern League as he is hitting .330/.406/.553 in 49 games. Between both levels in the minor leagues, he has 31 doubles and 14 home runs with 78 RBI. He has appeared in a career high 104 games in 2012 so it is good to see what Arcia has been able to do over the course of what is really his first season of being healthy in the full season leagues.

With Hicks batting at the top of the order and Arcia batting in the middle of the line-up, the New Britain Rock Cats find themselves in the middle of the playoff chase in the Eastern League. While fans of the Twins might not be concerned about the chase by the Rock Cats for the playoffs, it could have an impact on when (or if) the team will call-up these two young players at some point in September. Last season, the Twins looked to two position players to have a chance in the final month after the Rock Cats had been eliminated from contention. Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson got a shot to show what they could do with their first taste of the big leagues. Ben Revere got called up from Double-A at the end of the 2010 season and he only got 28 at-bats in 13 games with the club. This year it could be time for Arcia and Hicks to put on the Twins uniform and let the MLB coaches take a closer look at the future of the franchise.

Looking ahead to September, it might be hard for the Twins to find at-bats for both of these up-and-coming players. They are both outfielders and the current roster for the Twins is not short in the outfield department. Denard Span, Ben Revere, and Josh Willingham have been relatively healthy in the outfield for the Twins so it would be tough to take at-bats away from these already established players. There could be an injury that would allow the Twins to give extra at-bats to a September call-up but all three of the current outfielders are going to want to finish the season on a strong note. Span took a tumble on Sunday and he might have to miss a little bit of time and there is always a chance of an injury with the way Revere goes after balls in the outfield. An injury to one of the starters might be the only way to free up a chunk of at-bats for Arcia or Hicks.

Another obstacle in the way for Hicks is the fact that he is not currently on the 40-man roster for the Twins. Because Arcia was an international signee, the organization was required to add him to the 40-man roster during last offseason even though he is younger than Hicks. During the coming offseason, Hicks would have to be added to the 40-man roster so it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to see him added in September. The consistent play at the plate and in the field would need to continue for each player over the rest of August but they both seem to be hitting better as the season progresses.

For both of these players to get a chance with the Twins in September, it is important for the at-bats to be there for them with the big league squad. There are certainly things that each of them could learn from sitting on the bench but it is much more important to be in the line-up on a regular basis against big league pitching. With both players being under 23-years old, it would be nice to see them get their feet wet in a season that is a lost cause for the Twins. They are two of the biggest bright spots in the organization for 2012 and they deserve to be rewarded for their production on the field. That reward should be a chance to step onto the grass at Target Field for the first time.

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