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Is 2017 Aaron Hicks’ Last Chance As A Yankee?
- Updated: February 2, 2017
Last offseason, the New York Yankees made a minor acquisition in trading for Minnesota Twins OF Aaron Hicks to serve as a fourth outfielder on the roster. Hicks has only played four partial seasons in the bigs, but his time could be ticking on his career with the New York Yankees. While I admit that it might be a bit unfair to be saying this about a player who has yet to play a full season at the MLB level, Hicks is in a very precarious situation as a Yankee. Hicks has all of the tools to be an above average to great player. However, he has yet to demonstrate that potential between his four seasons between the Twins and Yankees.
When the Yankees swapped J.R. Murphy for Hicks, some baseball minds thought that the Yankees had pulled off a steal of a trade. At the time, Hicks was still considered a young player whose talent simply needed to be fleshed out with more game time experience. In 2015, Hicks put up respectable numbers while only playing in 97 games. He slashed .256/.323/.398 with 11 HRs and 33 RBIs. For a player who did not play more than 100 games, Hicks put up a solid 1.3 WAR.
According to scouts, Hicks had large components of the five tools that every prospect is evaluated on. Hicks has excellent arm strength, a good glove, above average power, good speed, and solid contact according to his scouting reports. Since being up in the big leagues, Hicks has fully demonstrated that he has the two tools in the field that make him one of the better defensive outfielders in the game. His arm strength has to rank as one of the best in baseball and his range is incredible.
The downside is Hicks’ inability to get the bat going. Once again, I admit that it is quite difficult to get going offensively when the role is not a consistent one. Hicks was in and out of the starting lineup throughout the season due to his placement as the fourth outfielder who gave rest to Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran. He was in the starting lineup on Opening Day last season, though.
Hicks regressed last season offensively. Playing more games than 2015 (123), Hicks only slashed .217/.281/.336 with only 8 home runs. Though he played more games than 2015, Hicks had 29 fewer plate appearances in 2016. However, Hicks’ WAR went below 0 (-.3) and was caught stealing more times than he was successful. When Hicks started, his spot in the lineup seemed to be a foregone conclusion that it would be an out.
Aaron Hicks’ defense will keep him on MLB rosters throughout his career until that side of his game begins to dwindle. However, the lack of offensive production is a huge concern. On the flip side, he is only 27 years old with four years of MLB experience. Why would his tenure with the Yankees be in jeopardy?
The answer to that question is simple: young talent under him. Going into Spring Training, Aaron Hicks will be competing for the RF starting job. However, nobody truly believes that he will beat out Aaron Judge for the spot. Not to mention that the Yankees are much higher on Judge than they are on Hicks. Though Judge is not as good defensively, his potential offensive production and Yankee Stadium’s small outfield propels him above Hicks. Meanwhile, if Judge does not turn out to be the next star, there is Mason Williams who is currently on the 40-man roster and might make the team as another outfield bench player.
Last season, Mason Williams only played in 12 games. In that small sample size, Williams demonstrated some ability to hit MLB pitching. A Yankee draft pick, Williams is another young player who the Yankees might prefer over Hicks. Williams is two years younger than Hicks, plus can fill the spot Hicks does for cheaper since Hicks has arbitration upcoming the next couple of seasons.
If it were only Judge and Williams who could undermine Aaron Hicks, then I would not be writing this article. However, there are more than simply those two. The Yankees have a wealth of potential MLB outfielders currently sitting in the minors. Clint Frazier and Blake Rutherford are two top 100 prospects whose current positions are OF. Frazier could see his MLB debut as early as this season, which could push Hicks (and Judge) behind him. In addition to Frazier and Rutherford, Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo will both be at Spring Training this year. While they are infield prospects, their speed and offensive potential could see them shift into the outfield before they hit the bigs. Hicks has to be feeling the pressure of potentially six players who could easily bypass him by the end of 2017.
Aaron Hicks could be a great MLB player. Thus far, his career has not reflected the talent that people believe he has. He has all of the tools to be an above-average starter (at the least) in the MLB, but his offense has not caught up with his defense. Hicks needs to take advantage of every opportunity the Yankees give him this season to make an impression. If he does not, then he could be gone from the organization before the end of the calendar year.