June 19, 2009

Aaron Hicks promoted to Beloit

Heading into the 2008 MLB Draft, the Twins had a few options at the #14 pick that had fans hemming and hawing over what the Twins should do. Some fans believed a power arm such as Christian Friedrich would be best suited, especially with an organizational deficiency of left-handed pitching. Some also thought that an infielder like Casey Kelly or Conor Gillaspie would fit the bill. Regardless of who the Twins drafted, they needed to be an impact player.

So when the team selected Aaron Hicks, arguably the best athlete and outfielder in the draft, everyone got really excited and things suddenly started looking up for the Twins minor league system. Although that may sound cliche, there's no doubt that while the Twins farm system is still very well respect, it didn't have nearly the quality of young talent it used to have.

Hicks, by all means, won't single-handedly change that, but he is viewed by many as the most talented player in the organization, despite only playing only two months of professional baseball. The wiry 6'2'' 170 lbs. outfielder has drawn comparisons to Torii Hunter, Darryl Strawberry and Adam Jones (among others). Any by all means, that's a great group to be compared to and I personally think they're all very realistic.

At just 19-years-old, Hicks has separated himself from those players mentioned above in that he has showcased something that all three players mentioned above lacked when making their jump from high school to the pro ranks. That would be plate discipline. Hicks' approach at the plate is just one of the many tools he demonstrated in his first 45 games of professional baseball. It was a major part of the reason why his OBP ranked 8th and overall OPS ranked 5th in all of the GCL in '08. The switch-hitting 18-year-old also his 18 extra-base hits, including four home runs, as well as stealing 12 bases.

As Aaron Gleeman stated, Hick was playing in the pitcher-friendly Gulf Coast League, which actually means his .318/.409/.491 hitting line is even more impressive than originally thought. Especially when Gleeman offers this nugget:
"...the average hitter has produced a measly .254/.333/.357 line (in the GCL) this season."
Although the Twins aren't concerned about how other players in other organizations are doing when promoting their own players, it did give Twins fans even more reasoning as to why Hicks should have been in Beloit at the start of the 2009 season.

Despite being only 19-years-old, Hicks is viewed as one of the best athletes in Minor League Baseball. Although being athletic doesn't prove anything to anyone about being a good baseball player, Hicks has shown the Twins, even in a short period that he is a pretty damn good baseball player as well. While drawing rave reviews with his bat from both sides of the plate, there is another aspect of Hicks' game that has given fans reasoning to call for his promotion to Beloit, and that is his glove.

Hicks was listed by BaseballAmerica.com as being the best defensive outfielder and also having the best outfield arm in the Twins' system. Hicks was a pitcher in high school, hitting the mid-90's on the radar gun, and was scouted by some teams as a pitcher instead of an outfielder, which is one reasoning for his outstanding arm.

The reason that many fans look to this for reasoning to promote Hicks, is because 2007 first round pick Ben Revere was also kept back in Extended Spring Training at the beginning of his second year in professional baseball. Despite also being a good athlete, Revere was being held back due concerns over his defense. Revere, like Hicks, lit up the box scores while playing in the GCL, but didn't show nearly as much potential at the plate or with his glove as Hicks did. It eventually took an injury to D.J. Romero for Revere to make the Snappers roster, and we all know how the rest of his season went.

Revere's success in '08, Hicks' expectations, and his impressive plate discipline along with strong defense were all reasons fans were giving as to why Hicks should be in Beloit. Yet the Twins wanted to use their newly-modeled conservative approach with Hicks (like they wanted to with Revere), and let Hicks take his time and go to Extended Spring Training while heading for another go-around in Rookie Ball. But the time has finally arrived for Hicks to make head to Beloit, albeit later than Twins fans had hoped for.

It's not too often that a 19-year-old will force a teams hand, and to an extent, make them promote him. Only the truly special players do that, and Hicks continues to show that he is one of them. Although a small sample size and a boatload of potential is all we have to base our opinions, players with Hicks' capabilities don't come around too often, and when he's performing well, the team needs to continue to push him. Although they want to see him get settled in at each level, his peripherals suggest that he's ready to handle tougher competition and like a spectator said (when he was in high school):
"Geez, this is Little League for him."
Although saying he's the best prospect since Joe Mauer (or even Jason Kubel) is even too much for me (to speculate on) right now, it's certainly what many a lot of fans are thinking and the Twins just have to hope that aggressively (at least to Twins standards) promoting Hicks like they were forced to with Revere will work out like it once did for Mauer.