There’s not much to complain about these days with the Yankees, but one move manager Aaron Boone should strongly consider making is dropping Aaron Hicks down in the batting order.
The Yankees lineup is arguably the best in baseball. They lead baseball in runs, RBI and they’re second in home runs. They’re an offensive juggernaut from top to bottom, but through the first month and a half of the season, the one weak link in the order has to be Aaron Hicks.
Hicks had a breakout campaign in 2017 despite multiple DL stints and earned the right to be the everyday center fielder coming into this season. Talent has never been an issue for Hicks, but throughout his career, he’s never been able to put it all together on a consistent basis. He’s very streaky from both sides of the plate, but that didn’t stop Boone from inserting him into the six hole in the Yankees everyday lineup.
So far this season Hicks is hitting a meager .215 with only three home runs and 15 RBI. He’s slugging .376 and yet he is the next guy up “protecting” Gary Sanchez in the lineup. I will say that I haven’t had many gripes with most of the decisions Boone has made in his first season as skipper, but this is one that needs to stop.
Hicks was very productive at times a season ago, but that doesn’t erase the fact that over the course of his career he is a .231 hitter. Neil Walker, who is on fire of late and usually hits seventh or eighth is a career .271 hitter.
If not Walker, I think one of the rookies in Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar, should be moved up to the sixth hole, but Boone will not do that this early in their careers. I understand why because he doesn’t want to put any extra pressure on them to produce and he likes having Torres as a second leadoff guy in the nine hole. However, both of them are already more polished hitters than Hicks has ever been or will be.
At this point, we know what Hicks is. Even though he’s still only 28 there’s not much more of a ceiling for him to reach, unlike the two rookies. Down the road, both of them project to be near the top or in the middle of the Yankees order for years to come, but with the way Hicks has performed thus far now might be a good time to move one of them up. I’d go with Andujar because Gleyber has been so good turning the lineup over in that nine spot, and eventually, he might be the guy who leads off once Brett Gardner is gone.
Why it makes the most sense
I’m not a Hicks hater I’m just being realistic and believe in the concept that you want your best hitters to bat as many times as they can over the course of a game. In this Yankees lineup, Hicks is the worst hitter in the order so based on that logic he should be batting ninth.
I’m not saying he should be removed from the lineup completely because he does bring more than just a lackluster bat to the table. He’s a terrific center fielder and he has a good eye with a decent .327 OBP, so his good on-base skills would work well at the bottom of the lineup. Although I will add that if his struggles continue there should be more talk about potentially replacing him with a guy like Clint Frazier. That’s a different discussion but one that should start being talked about more amongst Yankees management.
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If Andujar or Torres aren’t going to be moved I think Boone should at least flip-flop Hicks with the veteran Walker until a healthy Greg Bird returns. Once Bird is back there’s no doubt he should bat right behind Gary Sanchez.
Unlike Aaron Judge, Didi, and Giancarlo Stanton, Sanchez doesn’t have much protection in the lineup with Hicks batting sixth. Pitchers don’t want to give him anything good to hit when a base is open because they see Hicks on deck and they’d much rather pitch to him.
I think that’s part of the reason Sanchez has gotten off to a slow start with his average because he hasn’t been as patient and pitchers aren’t going to give him anything good to hit. It’s obviously on him not to chase but if there wasn’t an “easy out” like Hicks batting behind him he would get more pitches in his zone he could do damage with.
The Yankees might continue to win and be a great offense regardless of where Hicks bats but if they want to reach their full potential as lineup a change should be made. It just doesn’t make sense continuing to bat Hicks sixth when they are better options behind him who can do so.