2017 Bounce Back Candidates: Aaron Hicks
Acquired from the Minnesota Twins on November 11th, 2015 in a trade for then backup catcher John Ryan Murphy, Aaron Hicks came to the Yankees to fill the fourth outfielder spot on the roster vacated by departing free-agent Chris Young. Formally a first round pick of the Twins (14th overall in the 2008 amateur draft), Hicks had not yet hit his full potential and instantly became a classic Brian Cashman buy-low move we have seen from him so often over the last few years (Didi Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, Starlin Castro).
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The book on Hicks upon his arrival was that he was very athletic, played a strong center field, possessed good speed and mashed against left-hand pitching. In his three years with the Twins prior to being acquired by the Yankees, Hicks hit an unimpressive .225/.306/.349 with 20 home runs and over 200 strikeouts. His 2016 with the Yankees wasn't any better, as Hicks started the season ice cold and, despite a solid finish to the season, ended the year slashing .217/.281/.336 with just eight home runs and 31 runs batted in. Last season was also the first time Hicks played in more than 100 games, albeit many of them as a late-innings defensive replacement to either Carlos Beltran or Aaron Judge.
Most notably, Hicks' 2016 season will be remembered for two big moments. The first of which occurred on May 7th in a game against the Boston Red Sox, a game many will remember as the game that both David Ortiz and Red Sox manager John Farrell were ejected in the ninth arguing balls and strikes. You might have forgotten, however, that it was Hicks' seventh inning home run that broke a 2-2 tie and proved to be the game winner.
The other memorable moment from an otherwise dull season occurred on April 20th in a game against the Oakland Athletics in which Aaron uncorked an absolute seed from left field that Statcast measured at 105.5 miles-per-hour. A figure that is all the more impressive considering the fastest pitch Aroldis Chapman threw all season was clocked at 105.1 mph.
Few were as harsh a critic of Hicks during this past season as I was, but I'm going into 2017 with some hope that this still just 27-year-old can turn it around and produce for the Yankees. Perhaps the bright lights of New York got to him in his first season in pinstripes? Maybe a career high workload took a toll on him? Those are questions I don't have answers to. However, things can't get much worse for Hicks than this did this past season, and he may be asked to play a lesser roll this upcoming season as the Yankees are flush with outfield options both at the big league level as well as in the minor leagues.
The talent is undeniably still there and with a full year of playing in the Bronx under his belt, perhaps 2017 is the year Hicks finally puts it all together. Would anyone be opposed to a fourth outfielder hitting – let's say – .260/.330/.360 with 10-12 homers all the while contributing strong defense? Certainly not I. With the Bombers set to break spring training (for now) with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Judge as the starting outfielders, Aaron Hicks won't be asked to do much this year – and that might just be exactly the position he needs to be in to surprise us all and play an important role on the 2017 New York Yankees.
Article by: Andrew NatalizioFollow @anatalizio0523