2018 Pinstripe Preview: Aaron Hicks
With the deep and talented roster that Brian Cashman and the Yankees have assembled, it is easy to overlook one player that could play a larger role than you might think this season and that player is Aaron Hicks. Hicks was acquired two seasons ago and had an up and down 2017 season. One of our own wrote about Hicks last season as a potential bounce back player to watch and it appeared early on like it would prove to be true. Hicks got off to a strong start before injuries derailed his campaign. Hicks did not begin the 2017 season as a starter but he received regular starts in the outfield while Joe Girardi employed a rotation that appeared to be successful at keeping the Yankees outfielders fresh and healthy. Hicks was on his way to a career year through June 25 when he excited a game against the Texas Rangers with an injury to his right oblique. Hicks would return in August before injuring his left oblique in early September. There were many positives for Hicks in 2017 and he appears poised to take on a more prominent role this season as long as his health cooperates.
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As previously mentioned, Hicks was on his way to a career year at the plate before injuries struck. Prior to June 25th, Hicks was putting up a .290 BA with 10 home runs, 37 RBI and a .937 OPS. He also stole 10 bases and while he was caught stealing five times, it shows that he has speed and aggressiveness on the base paths that could be valuable as the team continues to stockpile power bats. After that injury Hicks never seemed to get back in the groove and he struggled down the stretch and into the playoffs. Overall, Hicks played in just 88 games and netted just 361 plate appearances, batting .266 with 15 homers and 52 RBI. The Yankees will surely look for more games out of him this coming year and hopefully we see the early season of Hicks all the way through this time.
In the field is where Hicks truly shines. He is an excellent center fielder with very good range but the best trait he has is his arm. Hicks has one of the best outfield arms in baseball, making several memorable plays over the years with it. As a member of the Minnesota Twins, Hicks once uncorked a throw from the warning track just right of center field that hit third base on the fly to nab (un)forgettable Yankee Vernon Wells. While that was surely incredible, it didn’t take Hicks long to showcase that arm as a member of the Yankees.
Hicks used all of these tools and put together a 2017 campaign where he made just two errors in 84 games, while recording a .987 fielding percentage with three outfield assists. Despite his struggles at the plate late in the season, Joe Girardi went with Hicks in the postseason, a sign that the Yankees may be truly ready to move on from Jacoby Ellsbury as an everyday player. If that really is the case, the 2018 will be a huge year for Hicks and would be his opportunity to prove his worth as a real everyday player.
If Hicks is truly ready to take over and start every day for this Yankee team I think he could put up some really good numbers while continuing to play great defense in center field. In about half of a seasons worth of games last season Hicks hit 15 home runs so it wouldn't be a shock to see him get into the 20-25 range. If you’ve been following him on social media, you would have seen that he has put on a lot of muscle this offseason, no doubt in an effort to get stronger and put more balls over the friendly Yankee Stadium fences.
With this being his first real opportunity at an every day starting job we’ll have to wait and see how his hard work pays off. He had his average at or around .300 all the way up to the time of his injury and while its difficult to expect someone to go from part time player to starting every day and batting .300, I think something in the neighborhood of .280 would be a good place to start. Aaron Hicks came to the Yankees just two years ago as a talented but raw player. He has worked his butt off throughout those two years to improve but has had his ups and downs. Despite his struggles, all of his hard work has gotten him here, to the cusp of a breakout season and the chance start in the hallowed ground of center field for the Yankees.
Article by Matt GrazianoFollow @mattgraz930