The Curious Case of Aaron Hicks

Apr 21, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) during game against the Oakland A
Apr 21, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) during game against the Oakland A /

Aaron Hicks is hitting just above the Mendoza Line. Is the former top prospect in danger of losing his job with the New York Yankees following the season?

When the New York Yankees traded for Aaron Hicks, I was ecstatic. Here was a guy who was a former top prospect in 2013. One that was destined to be a five-tool player and a mainstay in the Minnesota Twins’ outfield. One that was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Twins’ revitalization.

The only player the Yankees gave away for him was John Ryan Murphy, a career backup catcher. It’s also worth being mentioned that Murphy’s time in New York was limited considering prospects like Gary Sanchez and Luis Torrens advancing through the system.

The Bad News

What has ensued since is quite the enigma. The former first-round pick in the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft has failed to find his footing. No seriously, he’s never batted over .256 in four seasons in the big leagues. His productivity is just unfortunate. When Hicks plays in the field, there really isn’t a game where he doesn’t make an amazing play. Remember this throw from Hicks?

With his fielding ability paired with his speed, Hicks covers a ton of ground in the outfield. And when you compare his arm to Jacoby Ellsbury‘s, it’s understandable why the Yankees keep giving him minutes, despite the lack of productivity. 

Just because Hicks hasn’t been great doesn’t entirely mean the Yankees lost this trade. Murphy started the 2016 MLB season with just three hits in 40 plate appearances. That led to him being sent to Triple-A. He has yet to make it back to the Twins’ MLB roster since.

The Yankees are getting younger and the experiment of Hicks seems to be ending. With Aaron Judge finally in the MLB and proving why he is the team’s best option in right field going forward, Hicks’ days in New York seemed to numbered. Arbitration-eligible at the end of the 2017 season, the Yankees will have a decision to make with Hicks’ future. 

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Potential Replacements

To be completely honest, I’m quite shocked Hicks still is on the roster. The past two weeks have proved that the Yankees are going to ride out their youngsters, as they should. And rather than giving starts to Hicks, it’s surprising that the Yankees haven’t decided to give Hicks’ at bats to Rob Refsnyder or even Ben Gamel.

The Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders are one of the better baseball teams in all of Triple-A and they have five options that could already be better than Hicks. Cesar Puello is batting .275 in Triple-A. And, Gamel has put together back-to-back seasons in Triple-A with a batting average at .300 or above.

Hitting coach Marcus Thamas has done a good job with a few players in the Yankees’ organization, but Hicks is one guy that has consistently struggled at the plate. Because of his abysmal season, the market for Hicks in free agency could be bleak and the Yankees could welcome him back for Spring Training at a cheap price.

The Good News

One thing Hicks has going for him is his play in the month of August. Despite the arrival of Judge, Hicks has been given more at bats thanks to departures of Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran. His 52 at bats in the month of August are already more than the 49 at bats he had in the entire month of July.

In August, Hicks is batting .250 with three homers. A batting average of .250 is not to say that Hicks has turned the corner, but the fact of the matter is that the more Hicks plays, the more comfortable and confident he gets, and his statistics are showing it. In the past seven games, Hicks has gotten at least three at bats.

The Future

September could very well be judgment day not just for Hicks’ future with the Yankees, but perhaps for his future in the MLB. Hicks is no longer the prospect of the future. He’s now a 26-year-old player who is expected to enter the prime of his career soon. I will say that Hicks’ role this season makes it hard for him to put up quality numbers. However, with just 40 games to play, the time is now for Hicks to prove that he is worthy of an MLB roster spot, whether that is in New York or elsewhere.

What Are the Yankees’ Plans?

Considering that the team boasts prospects like Clint Frazier, Billy McKinney, Blake Rutherford, Mason Williams, Dustin Fowler, and Jake Cave, the future looks dim for Hicks in New York. That is the reality of things, but a strong finish to the end of the 2016 season could pay huge dividends for Hicks. As the team continues to fight for a playoff spot, Hicks’ production will be greatly needed.

Next: Finding the Ideal Yankees Lineup

After a five-game stint where the Yankees went 4-1 and Hicks had seven hits, he has now gone hitless in his past seven at bats. From August 1st to August 15th, Hicks raised his batting average from .187 to .205, the highest it had been since July 5th. Currently, Hicks’ average sits at .199, but with more opportunities to find consistency, getting his average up to around .220 would be huge for the struggling Hicks.