The New York Yankees have their lineup, rotation and bullpen humming as the team blitzes forward in first place in the AL East. Even though catchers Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka rarely join the slugging party, they’ve served as valuable reminders that defense and framing play a significant role in today’s game, and that you don’t need an All-Star slugger at every position to be a complete team.
And then there’s Aaron Hicks, who doesn’t seem to fit so far in 2022 after returning at full strength.
Through 89 at-bats (admittedly a small sample size, yes, but also the only recent sample we have to work with!), Hicks has joined the offensive desert with an 88 OPS+, pairing a sterling .355 OBP with a disappointing .613 OPS.
With runners in scoring position, Hicks’ average plummets to .150, and a number of glaring high-profile failures in such situations this season have stuck in Yankee fans’ minds more than any minor success ever could. With men on base in any capacity, he hits .153 and slugs .273. Though the Yankees are certainly winning in spite of Hicks, his spot in the order could easily be improved upon (or … he could just creep that batting average closer to .250 or hit for more power …).
Traditionally great Yankees teams have typically been built with a strong foundation up the middle which is one of many reasons some fans were skeptical entering 2022. Not only are the Bombers devoid of superstars at those positions (as currently constructed), but they’ve struggled to hit league-average offensive production from those pillars.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been a cult hero, but his recent hot streak has brought him to basically the status quo, showing why his acquisition was intended as a stopgap. Trevino and Higashioka have both been offensive black holes, save for the occasional Jose Molina-esque surprise. And Hicks in center has been the most disappointing of all, considering the guaranteed length of his tenure and the higher expectations.
Luckily for the Yankees, there are several available avenues to give Hicks a breather until he finds his sea legs.
Honorable Mention: Signing Brett Gardner (kidding!)
3 ways Yankees can decrease Aaron Hicks’ playing time in 2022
3. Promote Estevan Florial
While many are used to viewing Estevan Florial as a tantalizing, yet clearly flawed former top prospect, Florial 2.0 has laid waste to Triple-A pitching in recent weeks after adjusting to the level.
Known for electric power mixed with rampant free-swinging, Florial (still freshly 24) has increased his walk percentage, decreased his K percentage, and improved his pop significantly in his second attempt to conquer the upper minors.
Perhaps the fanbase judged Florial too soon? No way. Never happens.
Add in the fact that his quick, powerful uppercut is perfectly tailored for the short porch, and you have someone who could likely bring a higher yield to this Yankees ball club (if not now, then in 2023).
It’s extremely difficult to slice anyone off the current roster, from the lineup to the bench (yes, even the injured Tim Locastro) … until you get to Hicks, who’s spent 2021 and 2022 muddying the waters on his long-term future in the Bronx. Bottom line? He wasn’t extended through 2025 to hit ninth. He wasn’t signed for fans to justify his demotion by calling the bottom of the lineup the “second leadoff” spot.
If Florial continues to prove his Triple-A breakout is for real, then he’ll probably need several weeks to readjust to the big-league level, too, before he can be a viable contributor. The sooner the Yankees start that clock after giving him a 2021 trial run, too, the better.