Aaron Hicks is a New York Yankees player who stirs up mixed reactions from fans who either believe the analytics that he is one of the top ten center fielders in the game or who believe that he should hit higher than .240 and stay healthy.
Back on September 25th, Travis Sawchik of fivethirtyeight.com took a look at Hicks’ 2018 season and concluded that “the Yankees have unearthed a star.”
Hicks, according to Sawchik, blends one of the game’s strongest outfield arms (hitting 105.5 mph in 2016) with one of the league’s most disciplined bats and his WAR total in 2018 bears out what a complete player he has become:
“Through Sunday, Hicks was tied for 17th in position player wins above replacement at 4.9 WAR, according to FanGraphs. (Harper was tied for 38th.) WAR is an accumulative stat, so when we adjust for playing time,1 Hicks ranked 11th in baseball in WAR per 600 plate appearances since 2017. By that measure, he placed ahead of stars like Christian Yelich, J.D. Martinez and Kris Bryant in terms of overall performance per playing time.”
A quality outfield is essential for success:
Hicks features as a significant piece of the Yankees’ success in 2018, playing in 137 games, his most in pinstripes since being traded here in 2016.
Hicks reputation for being often injured is due to a pair of oblique injuries that landed him on the disabled list in June and September of 2017 and a pair of injuries that slowed his start to the 2018 season. In 2017, he played in only 88 games.
Can we trust Hicks to remain healthy?
Is he injury prone? If he was, certainly playing in 137 games in ’18 should go a long way toward proving that he isn’t any longer. Healthy, after the early injuries, he had a successful and productive season.
Hicks has become a more selective hitter since his days with the Twins. According to Sawchik, he ranked fifth in baseball in walk rate on the season at 15.8 and, in the second half of the season, he led baseball in walk rate at 19.6 percent. Sawchik notes:
Hicks’ 27 home runs, 79 RBI, 18 doubles and 90 walks were all career highs in ’18 and on the strength of that Hicks is projected by Steamer to have very similar numbers in the coming season.
If Hicks can replicate or improve upon his numbers in ’18, he can put to rest the fans’ complaints that he doesn’t hit for average and doesn’t stay healthy. With his arm, fielding range and newly discovered power, Hicks profiles as one of the top center fielders in the league.