Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Evolution of Aaron Hicks

With the spring being put together by Aaron Hicks, it is looking more and more like he will be playing a part with the big league version of the 2013 Twins. It has been a long road for Hicks since he was taken in the first round of the 2008 draft. There have been ups and downs but the future continues to look bright for this young man.

Hicks put together his best professional season last year at the Double-A level. It took quite the evolution to get him to the brink of making his big league debut. Last week, I wrote that it might be better for Hicks to start the year in Rochester but he is making that a tough decision for the front office.

Let's look back at how Hicks got to this point in his career.

A Start in the Rookie League: After signing with the club, he was sent to the GCL for his first taste of professional baseball. He hit .318/.409/.491 over 45 games and he showed some pop in his bat. His athleticism and power swing generated four home runs, four triples, and 10 doubles in 173 at-bats.

Hicks showed the ability to get on base at a tremendous rate. He showed flashes of speed by stealing 12 bases in 14 attempts. His defense has always been strong and he was given the opportunity to showcase this in center field for the GCL Twins.

A Double Dose of Low-A: Hicks never made a stop with the E-Twins but he did spend two consecutive years with the Beloit Snappers. The first trip through the Midwest League wasn't the greatest so a second dose seemed to make sense.

In his first year with the Snappers, 19-year old Hicks hit .251/.353/.382 with 22 extra base hits in 297 plate appearances. He continued to show the ability to get on base but his batting average was a little lower than desired. His power numbers were almost identical to the previous year but he had 100 more plate appearances to accumulate those numbers.

The Twins sent him back to Beloit in 2010. This was a good decision as his numbers increased across the board. He batted .279/.401/.428 with 41 extra base hits. His 88 walks were tremendous and he had 21 steals in 32 attempts. Things seemed to be going in the right direction.

A Funk in Fort Myers: After a good year in Beloit, things were starting to look up for Hicks. He headed into the season at the High-A level with expectations rising higher. Things wouldn't go perfectly for him in the Florida State League.

Over 122 games, Hicks hit .242/.354/.368. His batting average was down and his power numbers weren't getting any better. He had 41 extra-base hits and 31 of those were doubles. The switch-hitting center fielder wasn't able to find a consistent swing from both sides of the plate and this hurt him.

A Chance to Shine in the Desert: A disappointing year can be tough to recover from but the Twins decided it was best for Hicks to continue his 2011 season in the Arizona Fall League. This is typically a league for some of the best prospects in the game so it had to be an honor to be selected to go.

He would hit .294 over 30 games and he got on base 40% of the time. He showcased a variety of his power hitting skills by knocking three home runs, eight doubles, and five triples. Hicks was tied for his team lead in triples and doubles. It was a sign of some big things to come in 2012.

A Breakout Year in Double-A: The Twins had been patient with Hicks and all of that patience seemed to pay off in 2012. Hicks would have a breakout season at the Double-A level. He seemed to be able to combine the skill set that Twins fans and the front office had been waiting for since he was drafted.

Hicks set the Rock Cats record for triples in a season with 11. He clubbed double digits in home runs for the first time in his professional career. He even stole a career high 32 bases while only getting thrown out on 11 attempts. These numbers along with his stellar defense have left him knocking on the door to the big leagues.

On the Brink... With the performance that Hicks is putting up in spring training, it is going to be hard to keep him in the minor leagues for any portion of this season. So far this spring, he leads the team in hits, home runs, RBI, and he is tied for the lead in doubles.

It seems like the evolution of Hicks might have him on the brink of the big leagues and that is a good sign for the future of the club.

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