Aaron Hicks needs to be the Yankees starting left fielder. Right now!
Man, I can safely say I never thought I would type the name of this article a year ago. Not ever. Out of the three outfielders that were with the Yanks during the 2016 season, Hicks was by far the worst, and Brett Gardner was the best, mostly due to his Gold Glove defense. However, this is no longer the case in 2017. At this point in the season, Gardner needs to be benched, and Hicks should be playing every day.
|Photo via AP|
Look, I know it’s still early on in the season. The Yankees are 11-7 right now, and for the most part have looked pretty good with the exception of their first five games against the Rays and Orioles. They’ve exceeded basically everyone’s expectations, and there hasn’t been too many things to complain about. However, Brett Gardner is one of those things. Through the first 18 games of the season, Gardy’s batting line is as follows: .182/.318/.236, with zero home runs, and zero RBIs. Not exactly your ideal slash line for a leadoff hitter. Gardner has looked lost at the plate. He had a rough spring training too (.203/.230/.254), but, as the entire Yankees fan base is currently aware of with the case of Greg Bird, Spring Training success or failure rarely translates to the regular season. However, in the case of Gardner, it seems he really is having trouble hitting the ball.
We saw shades of this last season too, especially with his power output decreasing significantly (17 home runs in ’14, 16 HR in ’15, 7 in ’16). Of course, this could all just be a prolonged slump. Chase Headley’s struggle last April and decent success for the rest of the season are a good example of that. However, the Yanks ran Headley out every day despite his struggles because the next best option was Ronald Torreyes. While filling in for the injured Didi Gregorius, Torreyes has proven to be an adequate starter thus far, but at the time he was incredibly unproven. They had no real replacement. The Yankees have a replacement on their bench, and that is Aaron Hicks.
I’m not going to pretend like I saw this coming. I was a big supporter of #TeamDFAHicks last year and during this past offseason. Hicks hit .217/.281/.336 last year, with eight homers and 31 RBIs. He was abominable. That being said, he’s a completely different player so far this season. I would go so far as to say that he’s been the Yankees second most productive outfielder, with Aaron Judge easily claiming the top spot and Jacoby Ellsbury not far behind at all (surprisingly).
In 13 games (33 at bats) so far this season, Hicks is batting .303/.455/.727 with four homers and nine RBIs. He is tied for second on the Yankees in homers with Starlin Castro, in about 20 fewer at bats. He is second on the team in RBIs. He’s been really good so far! Of course, this success might not last. He might revert to being the 2016 version of Aaron Hicks. You never know. But he needs to play more regularly. Joe Girardi and the Yankees have an annoying habit of playing unproductive veterans based solely on track records (just look at A-Rod and Teixeira last season), and this needs to stop in the case of Gardner.
The biggest aspect that people seem to always forget is that Hicks is still only 27. He was ranked as the Twins #1 prospect after the 2008 season, and as the #19 prospect in all of baseball after 2009, according to Baseball America. He’s also considered to be part of the youth movement and could be entering his prime right now. The talent is there. Meanwhile, Brett Gardner is 33. He has been an average to slightly above average player in his career, and is entering the time where players begin to decline. It’s time to put Gardner on the bench, and give Hicks a shot.
Article by: Alex WeirFollow @waelierx