Right field is an area of focus this spring for the New York Yankees, and Aaron Hicks has his sights set on winning the position.
After watching Aaron Judge struggle during his first taste of the majors and Aaron Hicks‘ late-season burst, the battle over who will play right field for the New York Yankees will garner some attention.
Despite the prospect craze and hype surrounding Judge, however, Hicks knows the 24-year-old won’t be handed the job and that he has a legitimate chance at being the everyday right fielder.
“Of course, I want to be the starter,” Hicks told NJ Advance Media at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday. “I mean, the position’s open. Whoever wants it is going to get it. It’s all about having a great spring training. Of course, it humbles you. In the offseason, that’s kind of where you generate it back. You start it back up. You start hitting again. You start working on your swing.”
Most would consider Hicks’ 2016 campaign, his first with the Yankees, to be an extensive failure. Through his first 86 games, the switch-hitter slashed .187/.251/.287 with a .538 OPS and just three home runs. The definition of incompetence
After New York traded Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers, however, consistent at-bats turned Hicks into the player general manager Brian Cashman traded for in the prior offseason.
The 27-year-old slashed .276/.339/.431 with five of his eight home runs over his final 36 games of the year featuring a hot streak from August 11 to September 26 in which Hicks hit .306.
“Aaron Hicks is another person you are going to look at,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told the New York Post. “He seemed to play better when he got more consistent playing time. You have two kids with a really lot of tools, but what will determine who plays right field is who plays at a higher level and a more consistent level.”
Girardi, entering what could be his last season as the Yankees’ skipper, shouldn’t and won’t just hand Judge, who struck out in half of his first 84 career at-bats, the starting job on a silver platter despite his promising track record of adjusting (notwithstanding the strikeouts).
“It feels good,” Hicks also said. “They have confidence in me. That’s something you need, especially if you’re going to take the next step to do better for next year. That’s really what you need.
“I believe in my abilities. That’s where you start out. You’ve got to believe in yourself. That’s what I do. ”
While Yankees fans may be bothered with the trust Girardi and Cashman had in Aaron Hicks over the course of 162 games, his consistency with a starting job may be worth the wait if the other Aaron (Judge) needs more time to mature into the slugger many envision him to become.