News broke on Wednesday that Aaron Hicks’ elbow is feeling much better and he believes he’s ready to play in the ALCS. Assuming that Hicks is healthy and cleared to play who will he replace on the Yankees ALCS roster?
I don’t think anyone was expecting to see Hicks play again this season after missing the last two months plus with a right flexor strain in his elbow. The Yankees outfield has missed his presence on both sides of the ball but they’ve managed fine without him with Brett Gardner in center field and Tyler Wade and Cameron Maybin on the bench for depth.
Hicks signed a big 7-year, $70M extension with New York on February 25th, but the 2019 campaign was really a struggle for him due to injuries. Before the elbow injury, he missed most of spring training and all of April with a lower back strain so he only appeared in 59 games all season and wasn’t very productive when he was in the lineup. He had his moments but he finished the year batting .235 with 12 HR, 36 RBI, 72 K’s and a .769 OPS.
Hicks himself thought his season was done after he was shut down in early September but he reportedly started throwing recently without the Yankees permission because his elbow was feeling better.
Once he got the go-ahead to continue throwing he went to the team complex in Tampa to resume workouts where he’s been facing live pitching against teammates Jonathan Holder, Ben Heller, and David Hale. Hicks is now back with the team in New York as they get prepared for Saturday’s Game 1 of the ALCS but there still hasn’t been a decision on whether or not he will be on the 25-man roster according to GM Brian Cashman.
Based on the quote above there’s no telling what decision the Yankees are going to make with Hicks but if he proves to be healthy in the workouts it’s hard to imagine him being left off the roster.
I don’t think the Yankees would start Hicks early in the series considering he hasn’t appeared in a game since August 3rd, but if his arm is good to go he’s still the best defensive center fielder on the team and he could make a big impact as a late-inning defensive replacement. He could also pinch-run and his ability to switch hit still makes him a valuable bench option to have regardless of how rusty he might be at the plate after the long layoff.
So now the question is whose spot is he going to take on the roster? That’s going to be an extremely tough decision for the Yankees and Aaron Boone. Cameron Maybin has done a great job as the fourth outfielder so far this postseason and deserves to stay on the roster. However, Maybin isn’t as good of a center fielder as Hicks which could mean he’s the odd man out.
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During the ALDS Maybin replaced Giancarlo Stanton as a defensive replacement in left field for all three games and did a fine job. He even homered in the Game 3 clincher on Monday. That being said, the Yankees’ best defensive alignment in the outfield when everyone is healthy would be Gardner in left, Hicks in center and Aaron Judge, obviously in right field. There’s not a big drop off defensively with Maybin in there instead, but this is the postseason so the Yankees are going to put there best defense out there with the game on the line.
Another option would be to replace 1B/DH Luke Voit with Hicks because there really isn’t a need for him on the roster. Tyler Wade is already the backup infielder and Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu can both play first base so Voit is really only on the roster to pinch-hit which is something the Yanks don’t do a lot of because they don’t really have anyone to pinch-hit for.
If that was the move it might seem excessive to carry Hicks along with Maybin and Wade on the bench but all three guys could still play a valuable role because of their speed and ability to defend. There’s also a chance that Maybin or Wade (likely Maybin if anyone) is replaced on the roster by CC Sabathia. CC could also take the spot of relievers Tyler Lyons or Jonathan Loaisiga but the Yankees could opt to carry 13 pitchers instead of 12 and only have a three-man bench.
There’s a lot of directions the Yanks could go in but that’s something they’re definitely considering because CC apparently looked very good in his bullpen on Wednesday and is likely to be apart of the roster. As is Hicks, but we’ll have to wait until Saturday morning to find out exactly who he’s replacing.