One thing that seems to have worked in the favor of Hicks was that top prospect Byron Buxton missed almost all of the 2014 season with a variety of injuries. This pushed back Buxton's big league debut for at least a year and it could open the door for Hicks to get another opportunity to win the Opening Day center field job.
He's still only 25-years old so there is still some hope that he will be able to figure things out at the big league level. Brian Dozier was not thought of as highly as he worked his way through the Twins system and he didn't make his debut until his age 25 season. He didn't breakout until his age 26 season so the Twins have a recent player to make big strides at the MLB level.
This season could mark one of the last opportunities for Hicks to prove he can be a viable major league option. Fans are frustrated with his lack of performance and the front office has to be getting close to looking the other way. If things don't go great this season, he could end up on another team for the start of the 2016 campaign.
Here are a few things that could help to fix Mr. Hicks:
1. Capitalize on a full season of working with Tom Brunansky
Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, and Oswaldo Arcia have all made positive offensive strides under the tutelage of Bruno. Hicks has been back and forth between Minnesota and Rochester over the last couple seasons so it would be nice for him to get a full season to work with Brunansky. As a September call-up last season, he improved his slash-line to .250/.348/.300 with three doubles over 60 at-bats. These are small steps in the right direction but he needs to continue to improve over the course of a full season.
2. Getting pushed by other outfield options
In my off-season blueprint I released earlier this week, I have the Twins going out and signing a free agent outfielder. For the purposes of the plan, I have the Twins using Hicks in center field and Colby Rasmus in a corner outfield spot. Rasmus only has 10 career starts at a corner outfield spot so this could put some added pressure on Hicks in spring training. Minnesota also wasn't afraid to use other options like Danny Santana in center field. Hicks is going to have to earn his spot on this team but the club needs to see what they can get out of their former first round pick.
3. Bat him nine and let him ride
Throughout his minor league career, Hicks always profiled as a lead-off hitter because of his high on-base percentage and speed on the base paths. Those skills haven't shown up at the MLB level. First year manager Paul Molitor could slide Hicks into the nine spot in the order. This would offer the club the opportunity to have Hicks as a second lead-off hitter especially if he builds off of his September successes. There could be some bumps in the road but I think Molitor has to continue to pencil him into the line-up. Let's see what Hicks can do and ride him out for a full year.