Aaron Hicks was drafted out of high school with the 14th overall pick by the Twins back in 2008. Being picked that highly, he was obviously going to receive some hype right away and that proved to be true. The outfielder showed real promise as a potential all-around player with huge upside and the evaluators were believers. He was a four-time top-100 prospect on lists from both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America, never ranking worse than 51 on our own lists.
Hicks would cruise his way through the lower levels and spent all of 2012 in Double-A where he had a ton of success. That brought us to 2013 when everyone was ready for him to make his major-league debut. He ended up making the Opening Day roster that year, but things didn’t work out and he ended up back in the minors. That would be the story of his career for the next couple of years: putting up strong minor-league numbers but never being able to carry that success over to the highest level.
Eventually, the Twins decided they needed to move on and after the 2015 season they sent Hicks to the Yankees in exchange for J.R. Murphy, a move they would surely come to regret. Of course, that regret didn’t come right away as Hicks once again struggled in the majors in 2016. There were major question marks for the outfielder heading into this spring, and they were justified. In NFBC leagues, he was the 116th outfielder drafted.
What Went Right in 2017
When Hicks got a chance to play consistently for the Yankees in 2017, just about everything went right. The most notable part of his season, though, was the power. He had never been able to consistently hit for extra bases in the majors prior to this season, but he joined the rest of the league in modern times, finishing the year with a .209 ISO as a switch hitter. The 15 home runs he hit doesn’t look overly sexy, but he only played in 88 games.
It wasn’t just the power that went right in 2017, as Hicks showed off tremendous plate discipline during the season as well. The Yankees outfielder was finally able to translate his patience to the highest level, walking over 14 percent of his plate appearances while striking out in under 19 percent. This obviously made Hicks a huge asset in OBP leagues considering his final mark of .372. That being said, it helped in standard scoring leagues as well. That high on-base was hugely valuable for his ability to score runs and steal bases, too, with the first being particularly valuable in a lineup as good and powerful as that of the Yankees.
What Went Wrong in 2017
There wasn’t a lot that went wrong in Hicks’ breakout season, but if we were going to find one big one it would be the lack of playing time. This clearly hindered his fantasy value and his final overall numbers, what with playing in 88 games and all. A small part of this was that he wasn’t exactly a trusted member of the lineup heading into the year, a decision you couldn’t really blame the Yankees for given his lack of major-league track record. He did still get a fair amount of time in the early parts of the season and quickly earned more and more. Later, the injury bug struck and oblique troubles made him miss big chunks of the year.
In addition to the injuries, the one portion of his offensive game that saw problems in 2017 was his batting average. While Hicks gets on base at a really high rate, most of that comes from the walks mentioned above. His .266 AVG, on the other hand, doesn’t blow anyone away even if it’s solid enough given his other skills. Still, if he could turn a few more batted balls into hits, he could take his fantasy value to another level.
What to expect in 2018
The most obvious thing to expect for Hicks next year is that he is going to go a lot higher in drafts, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t. In fact, there’s a possibility he could be a bit of a steal given how little he played in 2017 and the effect that had on his overall numbers. We see late breakouts all the time in the majors, and it happening for Hicks shouldn’t lead anyone to believe this is a one-hit wonder. His power may go down next year, but that could very well be true for the entire league. It’s clear, however, that his talent is most certainly for real. When you combine that with one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball and one of the league’s most talented lineups, you have an extremely valuable fantasy player, provided health.
The Great Beyond
In terms of long-term leagues, Hicks isn’t someone who is going to be a productive fantasy player for the next decade, but he’s someone who should be able to be a valuable asset for just about any team in dynasty leagues. He has plenty of productive years left as 2018 will be his age-28 season, and unless you are just starting what looks like a long rebuild period, he is someone to consider buying.
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