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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Aaron Hicks' Career Day, and His Future

Photo credit: Richard Messina, Hartford Courant
If you haven't heard it by now, I should tell you: Aaron Hicks had undoubtedly his best game as a professional baseball player yesterday. He went 5-for-6 with a home run (his 10th), 2 doubles (14th and 15th), 2 RBIs (44 and 45), and 10 total bases. Here's what's also impressive about Hicks' performance yesterday -- he got 3 hits off of New York Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler, and 1 hit off of real Mets closer Frank Francisco, who is rehabbing in AA at the moment. So it's not as if Hicks' big day came against has-beens, or never-will-be major league player types.

Finally (it seems funny to say finally, because Hicks is still only 22 years old -- young for AA), Hicks seems to have put it together. Here's his AA line for the year: .284/.379/.456. Importantly, he seems to have figured out the switch-hitting, too, as he's batting .299 versus lefties, and .278 versus righties. It was only back in May that Hicks seemed to really struggle against righties.

So what happens now? A couple people have asked whether I think that Hicks should move up to AAA before the end of this season. My gut response is "no," for a few reasons. Before I explain my reasons, let me preface them by stating that I am aware that the Twins usually don't "rush" prospects, and that, sometimes, I would like to see them move prospects along faster. Hicks, however, is a different case.

First, Hicks is now playing well on all sides of the ball, and is starting to resemble the prospect that Twins fans hoped he would become. I'm not sure that one month in Rochester will do anything other than change a routine that clearly has been working lately for Hicks. Second, Rochester is a bad team. With the Rock Cats, Hicks is on a winning team right now. I firmly believe that there is something to be said for playing on winning teams, even in the minor leagues. Rochester has been a disaster lately, and quite frankly, I'd prefer to see Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia playing together in the same outfield, on a good team, and learning to become comfortable with one another. After all, if things pan out, there is a good chance that Hicks and Arcia could comprise two-thirds of the 2014 Twins outfield. Finally, this doesn't mean that Hicks should not get a September call-up to Minnesota, if he continues his solid season. And I'm certainly not suggesting that Hicks should start 2013 in AA, either. Hicks is unique -- a first-round pick who, aside from his Gulf Coast League numbers, had never really put together an impressive season at any level. If you view Hicks -- best case scenario -- as the Twins center fielder of the future, and taking into account the fact that he has struggled in the minors until this season, I'm not sure what one month in AAA does for Hicks. The last thing Hicks needs right now is a bad end to an otherwise good season.

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