After over half of season of frustrating baseball, the New York Yankees are finally wheeling in the benefits of being patient with Aaron Hicks.
No one knows exactly why New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi would pencil Aaron Hicks’ name into the lineup almost six times a week, but it has been a reoccurring yet frustrating theme throughout the 2016 season.
From opening day to August 3, Hicks slashed a depressing .187/.250/.285 with an aggravating .535 on-base plus slugging percentage through 88 games and 60 starts. Overall, he is slashing .203/.263/.329 over 271 plate appearances.
Those disappointing numbers had a major influence on New York’s overall record of 34-36 with the 26-year old in the starting lineup, yet the fourth outfielder continued to play as Hicks has played in 69% of the team’s total contests.
Why did Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman like him so much? Coming into the year he impressed them with his success against lefties in 2015 (.870 OPS) en route to becoming one of those project players that the Yankees’ organization demonstrates unjustified confidence in.
If you spoke to me heading into the trade deadline, I would tell you that the Hicks experiment has failed miserably and it was time to move on. Then, the Bombers traded Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers on August 1.
Since that deal, Hicks received more, playing time and has slashed .297/.333/.568 with an OPS of .901 and three home runs. Additionally, the Yankees are 8-4 in games that he has taken the field in.
Saturday’s 8-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays may have featured the young kids at their very best, but we also saw one of, if not the best, game from Hicks this season.
In the fifth inning with the game knotted at three apiece, Hicks pounded a go-ahead three-run home run to put the Yankees ahead for good. He completed the day 2-for-4 with three RBI, A runs scored, and a stolen base.
“I’ve just been having consistent at-bats,” he told the Daily News. “I’ve been hitting the ball more solid and putting the ball in play. Just making good swings.”
His home run was the second in as many days and the switch hitter hitting .273 in August which has been his most prominent month in pinstripes.
Up until now, the fact that he’s the best defender on the team (4.1 UZR, 6 DRS) was severely degraded by the fact that he was one of the worst hitters on the team.
That, is no more. And as the Bombers sit a mere 3.5 games out of the second American League Wild Card spot, the upswing of Hicks’ performance could be used a lot more now that Alex Rodriguez is no longer in the picture.
However, Aaron Judge, who was promoted from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and hit his first career home run, will be everyday right fielder for the remainder of the season which likely shoves Hicks into his typical backup role. Which is by no means a negative thing.
Hicks, if his current production can remain a model of consistency, he would feature as a major component to a young and hungry Yankees’ team that is hungry for a playoff appearance.