When Are We Going To Respect Aaron Hicks as a Top 5 Center Fielder?

Ryan Garcia
New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks
Aug 3, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) singles against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of game two of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

When you think about superstar CFs you often think about the likes of Mike Trout and George Springer, often filling the top of the Center Fielder list. This is rightfully so, these two are superstars, with Trout being in a class of his own. Up and coming players at that position are players such as Ketel Marte are also in the mix, with Acuña Jr. being up there if you see him as a CF and not an RF (I see him as an RF).  Those guys are all deserving of their praise and to be considered superstars, but when does Hicks get mentioned? If you came into this article thinking Hicks was barely a top 10 center fielder, then buckle up, because you’re going to think a lot differently when you’re done with it.

Defensively Solid

This is something that we all know Aaron Hicks for, his stellar arm and agility with a great ability to track the ball. His UZR and DRS numbers reflect this, with 7 DRS in his career in Center and a UZR/150 of 3.8. There isn’t any denying that he’s a pretty good fielder, and that’s a huge asset. Hicks’ famous plays like his game-saving catch against Minnesota or his record-setting rocket throw against the A’s in 2016. He plays a very sound CF, and is one of the better fielding outfielders in baseball, not to the level that a Harrison Bader in St. Louis is, but still pretty good.

Underrated Beast At the Plate

How many times have you looked at the offensive numbers of outfielders and just gawked at how crazy they can be? We baseball fans know that these outfielders can crush baseballs, but Hicks never gets much credit. In 2019 yes he was pretty mediocre offensively but injuries played a massive role in that regression. If you look at his 2017-2018 offensive metrics you find a 128 wRC+ in 2017 and 129 wRC+ in 2018. In 2017 (minimum 200 PA) he was 7th among center fielders and in 2018 among qualified center fielders he was 5th in that category. He also had the 5th best wOBA in 2019, which is scaled like OBP and is a very good stat at total offensive production. It doesn’t factor base running however, which should be noted. One more category he finished 5th among center fielders in is with his 27 home runs, despite the other 4 ahead of him except for the legend Mike Trout playing 15+ more games than Hicks. He isn’t a slouch with the bat, he’s an absolute stud.

Wins Above Replacement Tells All

Not convinced that New York Yankees’ CF Aaron Hicks is a top 5 center fielder yet? Well, his FanGraphs WAR shows that he is for sure top 5 in the center field debate. Among all players who have played center field since 2017, he has the 10th best fWAR. This is an unfair way to look at Hicks though because he has nearly a whole season less in games played compared to everyone ahead of him. I don’t count his 2019 because of injury, and so I looked at his fWAR per 150 games.  From 2017-2018 his fWAR/150 was an insane 5.6. This would only put him behind center fielders like George Springer and Mike Trout in those two years. In terms of who else goes ahead of Hicks? I got Ketel Marte and Cody Bellinger (I put Bellinger as a CF because Betts will most likely play RF). This would put Hicks at 5, where he rightfully belongs as one of the elite CF in the MLB.

Aaron Hicks is one of the game’s best players, and if you think he’s some scrub, then you’ll be shocked when he has a 7 pitch at-bat then rips a pitch for a long ball or makes an incredible play to kill your squad’s offensive momentum. He’s an elite center fielder, and to call him anything but that is flat out wrong.