Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Mysterious Lost Season of Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks had to be flying high at the conclusion of spring training this season. He had won the starting center fielder job for the Twins and he would be making his big league debut in front of the Target Field faithful. His 2012 minor league campaign was fantastic as he showed much of the promise the Twins had seen in him when they took him as a first round pick.

The future seemed nothing but bright and there were comparisons being made to some of the best outfielders in the game.

Those flowery thoughts didn't last too long as Hicks would struggle mightily on the offensive side of the ball. At the end of April, he had a batting line of .113/.229/.127 with a double being his lone extra-base hit. These were tough numbers to swallow especially with the expectations coming out of spring training.

Switching the calendar to May helped Hicks with his power swing but the other numbers didn't follow suit. After one extra-base hit in the first month, he cracked 10 extra-base hits in the second month of the season including six home runs. This raised his slugging percentage almost 200 points from .127 to .315 and it lead some to believe that Hicks might have turned the corner.

Throughout his minor league career, he had been praised as being a patient hitter but pitchers were able to attack him at the plate. In the first two months of the season, he struck out 49 times and he was only able to coax 17 walks. Combine his low walk total with the fact that he wasn't hitting the ball all that great and there were some red flags starting to appear.

June would see Hicks trying to overcome his first extended stay on the DL. He would be sent to Triple-A for the first time as part of his rehab and it seemed like he might have gotten more out of staying at that level. Instead the team brought him back for the start of July and there were a few more baby steps in the right direction.

Hicks batted .230/.292/.379 after returning from the DL. His batting average and OBP were the highest marks for any month so there were some positive signs. He was able to steal five bases while only being caught once. On the negative side, he struck out 26 times and was limited to six walks. The Twins decided it was time for Hicks to try and be successful at Triple-A and he was sent down for the remainder of Rochester's season.

Things weren't much better for Hicks in limited action in the minors. For the season, he played 22 games with Rochester and posted a batting line of .222/..317/.333 with six extra-base hits but no home runs. He was able to draw 10 walks but he averaged close to a strikeout a game. There was no shining light at the end of the tunnel.

Hicks wasn't among the Twins September call-ups and there are plenty of questions surrounding him after his first big league season. Should the Twins give up on Hicks in favor of stud prospect Byron Buxton? What is the future of role of Hicks with this team? Will he ever be able to be a consistent hitter at the big league level? Was this a lost season for the former top prospect?

Everything seemed bright for Hicks under the color of the Florida sun but things quickly turned cold in the brisk Minnesota spring. Perhaps he can have a bounce back sophomore year like Brian Dozier. For now, it will be an offseason of reflect for Mr. Hicks and hopefully a chance to enter next season with the ability to forget what happened in 2013.

No comments: