New York Yankees lose another center field option, The Hicks story

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks

For the 2022 season, the New York Yankees still have questions in center field. The biggest one is if Aaron Hicks can stay healthy this season. Hicks missed most of the 2021 season due to wrist surgery. For the Yankees, Hicks has been an on and off again player, but received a contract extension much to the surprise of many Yankee fans.

After coming from the Minnesota Twins, Hicks has spent the last six years with the Yankees, only playing over 100 games in two of those seasons. Hicks has suffered from several injuries during his time with the Yankees, making who will be playing in center a near constant question. Last year they rehired bench player Brett Gardner who played 140 games for him.

The Yankees have been looking for options in case Hicks can’t stay healthy. One is bringing back Gardner yet again. They also have been scouring the free agency markets. Starling Marte has often been mentioned to play center, but he has been removed from the market when the Mets signed him to a four year contract this past week.

Let’s take a look at Hick’s story. The New York Yankees other Aaron is Aaron Michael Hicks, the Yankees center fielder. Hicks was born on October 2, 1989, in San Padro, California.  Hicks played baseball as a child and for Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California.  He ranked No. 72 among Top 100 Prospects by entering the 2012 season. Ranked as the fourth-best prospect, best defensive outfielder and best outfield arm in the Minnesota Twins’ system by Baseball America following the 2011 season. … Selected by the Twins in the first round (14th overall) of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

Hicks stayed in the Twins system for five years until he made his major league debut on April Fools Day 2013.  He was the starting center fielder for the Twins.  He did not impress and was sent down to AAA on August first.  But despite his underwhelming 2013 performance at the plate, he was back up in the majors in 2014 due to his excellent outfield defense. However, his battles at the plate continued, and he was again sent down, this time to AA.  2015 would show a dramatic improvement hitting .256 with eleven home runs and 33 RBIs in 97 games.

After the 2015 season, Hicks was traded to the New York Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy.  The Yankees citing an aging Brett Gardner wanted Hicks due to his excellent defense and better than average throwing arm.  The Yankees wanted Hicks for his switch-hitting ability, something the Yankees were sorely lacking  at the time.

In Aaron Hicks, six years with the Yankees, they have not been able to consistently enjoy his abilities in centerfield or at the plate.  During his time back and forth between the Stadium, Trenton, and Scranton Wilkes/Barre, he has shown signs of power behind the plate and excellence in a cannon of an arm in the outfield.

The main obstacle to Hicks showing his stuff is his injury history.  After an injury-plagued 2017 season when he hit .266, he started the 2018 season on the IL with a right Intercostal Muscle Strain. In 2018 he played in 133 games after being reinstated from the DL on April 12 and hit an inside-the-park home run against the Detroit Tigers on the next day. Hicks would hit another inside-the-park-home run against the Kansas City Royals on May 19, becoming the first Yankee since Mickey Mantle in 1958 to hit two inside-the-park home runs in a single season. On July 1, Hicks hit three home runs in one game against the Boston Red Sox which endeared him to Yankee fans. Hicks ended the season with 27 home runs, 79 RBIs, and 119 hits, all career highs.

2019 would be another season marked by three injuries, both back and elbow problems. Those injuries caused him to play in only 59 games.  The elbow became the main issue that caused him to have Tommy John Surgery immediately after the season concluded.  The Yankees decision to keep Brett Gardner on the team reaped its rewards as Gardner had a career year. The absence of Hicks did not hurt the team as a whole, Although his switch-hitting was missed in the lineup.

During the offseason of 2018/2019, the Yankees signed Hicks to a seven-year $70MM contract extension.  They did have Brett Gardner for another season as he signed a one year deal with a 2021 option.  They did this as they need a back up if things don’t go well for Hicks upon his return.  Hicks has been quiet regarding his rehab on his Twitter account.

In a Zoom call in 2020, New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said Hicks will be back in center field in 2020 if he doesn’t encounter any setbacks. He did an played in 54 games. His healthy 2020 was short-lived as he missed most of the 2021 season and in the games his played he could only muster up a .194 batting average and four home runs. In his career with the Yankees over six years he has hit .237 with just over 10 home runs a season.

Like many New York Yankee players, Hick is pretty tight-lipped about his personal life.  We do know that he is supposedly unmarried, but has been going out with a beauty named Jessica Knoles for some time.  There are unconfirmed rumors that they may have been married and had a child together. Photos on the Internet seem to confirm that.

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