Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Twins Outfield Future Begins

Last night former first round draft pick, Aaron Hicks, got the call from the Minnesota Twins. While it isn't his first rodeo in the big leagues, there's no doubt this time signifies what might be the most important. After playing 27 games at the Triple-A level and batting .336/.415/.561, Minnesota saw fit to improve their outfield by bringing Hicks back into the fold. With more weighing on Hicks this time around, there's also plenty of reason to believe things click.

Although he was the 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Hicks took a more accelerated route to the big leagues than would have been expected. Despite playing five seasons in the minors, his best season at the plate saw him hit .318/.409/.491 in Rookie ball immediately after being drafted. A strong 2013 spring training, combined with the Twins dealing both Denard Span and Ben Revere, had Hicks being promoted directly from Double-A. After 150 games of struggle at the big league level, it was apparent a new approach was needed with Hicks.

Last season, the Twins demoted Hicks from the major leagues to Double-A. Playing in 43 games for Double-A New Britain in 2014, Hicks batted .297/.404/.466 and once again looked the part of an exciting prospect. Hicks was promoted to Triple-A Rochester, and for the first time in his career, played through Double and Triple-A in succession.

Expected to come into the 2015 season with the starting centerfield job his to lose once again, the Twins opted to go a different direction. With returns in spring training not being where the club wanted, Paul Molitor brought both Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson north. A confusing decision at the time, there's no doubt that Hicks made the most of his time in Triple-A. Abusing opposing pitchers while being the offensive catalyst for the Red Wings in 2015, Hicks no doubt earned his most recent promotion back to the big leagues.

Now in line for the starting centerfield role for the forseeable future, the Twins are hopeful they can begin to watch their outfield unfold. Hicks will immediately bring not only an offensive boost, but also defensive help, to a lackluster outfield. He presents opportunity for a Twins team in a good spot, to reach even new heights. The Twins hope is that Hicks will play his way into their future plans.

There's little doubt that Byron Buxton is eventually going to take over the centerfield role for the Twins. He's the number one prospect in all of baseball, and he's looked the part at every level. Buxton and Hicks are mutually exclusive however, in that the success of each of them would be huge for the Twins. Casting aside Hicks' previous struggles (remember, he's in uncharted territory now having excelled at each level of the farm system in order), a solid start for Hicks makes him an ideal corner fit for the Twins. Hicks has a plus arm, and could profile nicely in right field down the line.

Minnesota is no doubt enjoying the success that the 2015 season has brought them in the early going, but this team is built to contend for years to come. The hope would no doubt be that an outfield of Oswaldo Arcia, Byron Buxton, and Aaron Hicks would be the configuration for many years to come. Adding in Eddie Rosario as a 4th option would only further the talent that the Twins could employ out of the gate next season.

The Minnesota Twins, Aaron Hicks, and most everyone sees this as a last shot for the former first round pick, but smart money may be on the player. Hicks has shown plenty of reason to believe in him, and for the sake of an improved outfield going forward, the hope would be that it all comes full circle.