Aaron Michael Hicks
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 170 lb.
- High School Woodrow Wilson Classical High School
- Debut April 1, 2013
Outfielder Aaron Hicks was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the first round of the 2008 amateur draft with the 14th overall selection. He was signed by scout John Leavitt for $1.78 million. Hicks is the son of former minor league outfielder Joe Hicks, who was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 12th round of the 1975 amateur draft.
A product of Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy, Hicks helped Wilson High School to a national title, its first ever, in 2007. He hit .370 as a junior and stole 44 bases in 45 tries. On the mound, he was 3-0 with 3 saves and fanned 27 in 19 innings while hitting 94 mph on the radar gun. In the AFLAC Classic, he only threw strikes on 12 of 32 pitches, fired two wild pitches and had a passed ball by his catcher. He allowed the losing run in the 9th on a Tim Beckham sacrifice fly. There was question whether he would be a pitcher or an outfielder as a pro, but the Twins chose the latter.
Hicks made his pro debut on June 22, 2008 for the GCL Twins against the GCL Red Sox and went 2 for 4 at the plate. He hit .318 in 45 games that first season. In 2009, he hit .251 in 67 games for the Beloit Snappers of the Class A Midwest League. He repeated that level in 2010 and improved to .279 in 115 games. In 2011, he played for the Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League. He hit .242 in 122 games with 31 doubles. Over his first four seasons, he played mainly centerfield, displaying good on-base skills, with a high of 88 walks in 2010, and has his a good number of doubles, but his personal high was 8 homers. He stole a good number of bases, but with a mediocre success rate.
In 2012, Hicks had the sort of season the Twins had been expecting when they drafted him, hitting .286/.384/.460 in 129 games for the New Britain Rock Cats of the AA Eastern League. He scored an even 100 runs, hits 21 doubles, 11 triples and 13 homers and drove in 61 runs. He was 32 for 43 on the basepaths, showing the kind of base-stealing prowess that had been missing in previous years. After that outstanding season, the Twins traded their two major league centerfielders, Ben Revere and Denard Span, in order to open a spot in the big league team's line-up for Hicks in 2013. He confirmed his bosses' confidence with a great spring, securing his place on the opening day roster. Starting in centerfield on April 1st, he went 0 for 4 with a walk in his debut against the Detroit Tigers. He had a huge night on May 13th, after starting the season hitting only .137 with one homer through 30 games. He had the first multi-hit game of his career that night, with both hits being homers off Hector Santiago, and also robbed Adam Dunn of a potential game-tying home run by leaping to snag the ball over the centerfield fence in the 6th inning; the Twins went on a late scoring binge to defeat the Chicago White Sox, 10-3. He was still struggling with a .154 batting average when he had another great game on May 28th against the Milwaukee Brewers. He deprived Carlos Gomez of a sure home run and later homered himself against Alfredo Figaro as the Twins won, 6-5, in 14 innings. The following day, he robbed Rickie Weeks of an RBI single with a diving catch in the top of the 4th inning, then immediately homered off Marco Estrada in the bottom of the frame as the Twins again defeated the Brewers, 4-1. He went on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring on June 10th. He ended up hitting .193 with 8 homers and 27 RBIs in 61 games.
Hicks improved slowly over the next two seasons. In 2014, he broke the Mendoza Line with a .215 average, although with only 1 homer and 18 RBIs in 69 games. In 2015, he played 97 games and began to look like a major league hitter, with a .256 average, 11 homers and 33 RBIs. His OPS+ was up to 95, and he continued to be an excellent defender in centerfield, while stealing 13 bases in 16 attempts. He was particularly good against left-handed pitching, hitting .307 and slugging .495 against them. However, he was also being pushed by Byron Buxton, a very similar player rated even higher as a prospect, who made his debut during the 2015 season. On November 11th, the Twins traded him to the New York Yankees in return for C John Ryan Murphy. The Yankees had a crew of outfielders on the wrong side of 30 and wanted to get younger and more athletic at the position. Hicks obviously fit the bill as on April 20, 2016 he displayed his tremendous arm by gunning down Danny Valencia of the Oakland Athletics at home plate on a throw measured at 105.5 mph - the highest speed ever recorded in the major leagues on any throw or pitch. He played a career-high 123 games that season but his batting average fell back to .217 with 8 homers and 31 RBIs. Still he managed to retain his job in 2017 and appeared to be transformed as a hitter. Over the first two months of the year, he hit .298 with 8 homers and 24 RBIs in 40 games. He received a lot of playing time when Jacoby Ellsbury was placed on the disabled list in May, and thrived in the situation. On June 1st, he had the best game of his career in a 12-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, going 4-for-5 with 3 doubles and 6 RBIs to push his average to .317. He followed that a couple of days later on June 9th with a pair of homers in an 8-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. He ran into injury trouble during his break-out season though, as he was on the disabled list from June 26th to August 10th with a right oblique strain, and again starting on September 3rd, this time with a left oblique strain. He had had trouble finding his hitting stroke again after the first injury, as he hit just .207 in 22 games before returning to the DL. He was re-activated on September 26th, just in time to get a few games in before the start of the postseason, and in the 1st inning of his first game back, against the Tampa Bay Rays, he robbed Wilson Ramos of a potential grand slam, with a magnificent leaping catch.
- Pete Caldera: "Yanks' Aaron Hicks erasing the past with every swing", USA Today Sports, June 2, 2017.