New York Yankees Player Profiles: Aaron Hicks, can he fill the bill in center?

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks
Sep 11, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks (31) in the third inning against Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees’ third Aaron is Aaron Michael Hicks, the Yankees’ center fielder. Hick 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 MLB.com 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. He was 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. Unfortunately, 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 and his switch-hitting ability, something the Yankees were sorely lacking.

In Aaron Hicks, six years with the Yankees, they have not been able to consistently enjoy his abilities in center field or at the plate. However, 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.

Hicks was initially expected to be out rehabbing for as long as 10 months following the surgery. However, his better than expected rehab, and with the season delayed, he missed little or no time.

During the offseason of 2018/2019, the Yankees signed Hicks to a seven-year $70MM contract extension. Even in that shortened season, the Yankees needed Hicks to recover well and perform well. They did have Brett Gardner for another season as he signed a one-year deal with a 2021 option. They did this as they needed a backup if things didn’t go well for Hicks upon his return. 

2021 was his worst injury season. First, in April, he had an undisclosed injury, followed two weeks later with back problems, followed by the wrist injury that required season-ending surgery. He ended playing in only 32 games. Hicks, during the last three years, has never played in more than 59 games. That record has caused the Yankees to look for help in center field. Before the MLB imposed lockout, the Yankees were pursuing Japanese outfield star  Seiya Suzuki, who was posted by the Hiroshima Carp last month. 

With the Yankees having Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, and Giancarlo Stanton already in the outfield, Suzuki is not the perfect fit as he has little time in center field. If the Yankees land Suzuki, they could move Aaron Judge to center as he played adequately there last season in Hicks’s absence. That would allow them to play Suzuki in his natural position in right field. Suzuki is praised for his speed and base stealing. He stole 25 bases two seasons ago — but what they like most about him is his power (38 homers and a 1.072 OPS with Hiroshima last season. After the lockout, they still have three weeks to secure Suzuki if they decide to do so.

Hicks has had a slow start in Dominican Winter Ball. Hicks, in 44 plate appearances, is hitting .250 with only one home run. The fact that he is playing winter ball is encouraging, but at the same time, it says he is not as good as new. The Yankees will hope that Hicks will shake the rust off in winter ball, but they also want to be prepared if Hicks can’t stay healthy. With the loss of Starling Marte to the Mets, the Yankees don’t have many options left in center field. 

Like many New York Yankee players, Hicks is pretty tight-lipped about his personal life. Hicks is an accomplished golfer. We do know that Aaron Hicks’ fiance is an American golfer called Cheyenne Woods, the niece of the American professional golfer Tiger Woods. To date, they are not yet married.