Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fantasy Focus Rookie Watch: Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks is a name that has gotten short shrift in discussions of impact rookies, but he is starting to make some noise in spring training and may be poised to be have the biggest impact of any rookie out there.  When the Minnesota Twins traded away Denard Span and Ben Revere in one offseason, they cleared the deck for Hicks to be their CF of the future.  The only alternative is Darin Mastroianni who is at best a temporary placeholder for the former first round draft pick, Hicks.  The Twins are believed to want Hicks to win the job in spring training and are behaving accordingly.  Mastroianni has not helped his own cause by missing time with injury.

If the Twins want Hicks to win the job outright, he certainly gave them terrific cover for that decision with a 3 HR game this week, with the first of the 3 dingers coming of none other than Cliff Lee.  Hicks was having a good spring even before the 3 HR outburst, but now sports a slash line of .400/.387/.900! with 4 HR.

Hicks is a true 5 tool player with plus speed and an arm that can throw a ball 96 MPH off a pitching mound.  He has been seen more as a speed guy with future power potential and the big question has always been the hit tool.  Some scouts liked him better as a pitcher, but he was drafted as an OF out of HS as the Twins first round pick in 2008.  He signed quickly and put up good numbers in rookie ball:  .318/.409/.491 with 4 HR, 12 SB in 204 PA.  His numbers were not as good in 2009-2011 as he repeated low A ball and after 4 professional seasons had only completed high A ball.  He scored an AFL assignment at the end of the 2011 season and played well there with a line of .294/./400/.559 with 3 HR, 5 SB in 120 PA.

Aaron was assigned to the Twins AA affiliate, New Britain, CT in the Eastern League for 2012 and put up surprisingly good numbers for a league well known to be very tough on hitters:  .285/.382/.459, 13 HR, 32 SB in 563 PA.  Even when he struggled in the minors, Hicks maintained a solid approach at the plate with walk rates of 13-15% while keeping his K rates at or below 20%.

DOB is 10/2/1989 so he is entering his age 23 season.  He is a switch-hitter who is much stronger from the right side. He throws right.  He is 6'2", 178 lbs, so has some room to fill out the frame and gain more power.

Yesterday, Twins GM Terry Ryan flatly stated that Hicks' arbitration clock will not play a role in his making the team.  There is still plenty of time for him to go into a prolonged spring training slump and make the Twins decided he would benefit from some time in AAA, but at this point, it would appear he is well on his way to being the Twins starting CF in 2013.  If he does, he is likely to be able to help a fantasy team in the steals category, if nothing else.  Don't expect a power breakout despite the 3 dinger day this week.  He'll get most of he PA's batting LH where he has less power and Target Field is particularly tough.  He should get on base at the top of the Twins order enough to give you 30+ SB's and score a lot of runs.  BA may be a bit dicy his first season or two.

Just as an aside, although they did not attend the same HS, Aaron was in the same HS class as Ricky O and they played together at the Urban Youth Academy and on the showcase circuit.  Ricky's mom says she know's Aaron's family well and is rooting for him to succeed.  Since my wife is from South Dakota and is a big Twins fan, I have double rooting interest in Aaron Hicks.

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