Aaron Hicks' vital role to the Yankees' success
Yankees' center fielder Aaron Hicks has played in just three games in 2018, having missed eleven games on the disabled listed with a strained intercostal muscle, however, it's already not a stretch to say he's one of the team's most integral players. Coming into the season, Hicks was the unquestioned favorite for the starting center fielder position, after unseating Jacoby Ellsbury at the position over the course of a strong 2017. Yes, Hicks has not to this point shown that he can stay on the field for extended periods of time, but performances like Friday night prove just how valuable he is to this team's success this season.
|Photo Credit: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports|
You know the story with Hicks by now, how he was a former first round pick of the Minnesota Twins who Brian Cashman bought low on after he struggled in his first few years of professional ball. How he struggled in his debut season in New York in 2016 but showed glimpses of success, primarily after the team traded Carlos Beltran to Texas and he was given more playing time. How he had a coming out in 2017, despite battling two separate DL stints to oblique strains. However, what is still untold is how Aaron Hicks is quickly evolving into a foundational piece for a squad with sky high expectations this season.
Hicks' importance to the 2018 Yankees lies not only in his offensive abilities, but also his prowess in the outfield. Time and again over his tenure with the Yankees, Hicks has shown a knack for coming up with the big hit as well as the ability to flash Gold Glove caliber defense in center field. The fact that Hicks provides above average offense and defense allows manager Aaron Boone much more lineup flexibility on a nightly basis, as well as the ability to shuffle players in and out of the DH spot to keep this young squad fresh over the course of a 162-game marathon. Hicks is capable of playing any outfield position and he offers a switch-hitting bat that can be slotted anywhere in the lineup one through nine.
Of course, it's too early to look at his .364/.462/.909 slash line this season because he's only had 13 total plate appearances (11 ABs), but it must be remembered that Hicks was playing at an All-Star level in 2017 prior to hitting the DL for the first time. After a monster 4-for-5 performance at Wrigley Field last season, Hicks was hitting a robust .355/.468/.710 with four doubles, six home runs and 19 RBIs to his name. He was hitting .300 as late as June 22nd, before hitting the DL on June 25 at .290/.398/.515 with 15 doubles, ten HRs, 37 RBIs and 37 walks.
While it might be a bit of a stretch to expect Hicks to be a .300 hitter with a .400 OBP over the course of a full season, it bears remembering that he accounted for a 3.9 WAR last season, further proving his value as a significantly above average player.
Fast forward to Friday night in Detroit. In just his second game since coming off the disabled list, Hicks went 2-for-3 with two home runs (one inside-the-park) and two walks. It was a perfect microcosm of the player he can be. Said Aaron Judge following the game: "It's incredible. You've got power from both sides of the plate, a Gold Glove centerfielder. He's an igniter. He gets us going. We saw that tonight." Aaron Boone had this to say in his post game presser (Credit: Pete Caldera, NJ.com):
Think back again to August 11th last season in which Hicks ignited a ferocious five-run rally for the Yankees in the eighth inning, and then made the game's biggest play in the ninth, throwing out Eduardo Nunez attempting to tag up from second on an Andrew Benintendi fly out. The double play effectively killed the Red Sox's rally, and the Yankees held on for a 5-4 victory.
It's performances like these that remind us just how special of a player Hicks can be. Yes, he needs to avoid the injury bug. He also needs to remain patient at the plate and continue to work his walks. If Hicks is able to, however, there's nothing from keeping him from ascending to heights we've never seen from him before. He is a five-tool player; someone with all the talent in the world. Now, Hicks only needs to continue his rapid development from disappointment to star. The Yankees are flush with outfield talent not currently on the roster between guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier & Estevan , but nobody, at least at this point, can offer as much to New York's success as Aaron Michael Hicks.
Article by: Andrew Natalizio