The New York Yankees extended Aaron Hicks prior to the 2019 season because they didn’t believe any center fielders who’d be hitting free agency over the next few years would be able to eclipse his production.
Unfortunately, they didn’t foresee multiple options being able to clear that suddenly-low bar.
Hicks’ outstanding 2018 season (.248/.366/.467, 27 bombs) is unfortunately the best he’s done, as his “prime” years have been obscured by a Tommy John surgery that somehow managed to affect his batting eye in 2021.
At least, in the shortened season, Hicks’ walk rate was still supreme though his defense was lagging and his power had been sapped. This year? He’s chasing everything and OBPing a stunning .255. From the left side of the plate, he’s a pitcher.
There may not be help around the corner for the Yankees — Hicks is signed through 2025 … with an option at the end — but the cavalry might be coming in the long-term.
It didn’t take long for fans to make the connection after they realized that 18-year-old super-prospect Jasson Dominguez is hanging out in Tampa at extended spring training for a bit longer specifically so he can learn center field.
Yankees top prospect Jasson Dominguez could eventually replace Aaron Hicks.
Hopefully, that explanation went as follows: “Jasson, we know you’re disappointed by this news. Who wouldn’t be?! But have you seen the stiff who’s blocking you at the big-league level? We could have you up there before you can crack a Yuengling.”
Fans are understandably impatient at Dominguez’s apparent lack of public progress, but the reason for his slow start has definitely awakened a lot of wishful thinking.
Add in everything else Kevin Reese had to say about the mythical 18-year-old, and it’s hard not to flip a switch to excitement.
We’ll wait. We’ll all wait, even for the Low-A assignment.
When that day comes, though, Dominguez will be starting an ascent that could eventually relegate Hicks to a fourth outfielder spot in the wake of Brett Gardner’s eventual retirement (that day … is coming, right?).
Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But the Yankees acknowledging they’re more likely to need a center fielder long-term than someone in left (Clint Frazier?) or right (Aaron Judge) feels like a big step.