Despite Oswaldo Cabrera putting together an exciting sample size of action last year for the Yankees, veteran outfielder Aaron Hicks holds a slight advantage in left field, given his experience.
Hicks is coming off consecutive down seasons, hitting .216 with a .330 OBP last year. He smacked eight homers with 40 RBIs, last hitting double digits in the long-ball category back in 2019. His strikeout rate ballooned to 24.1% last season, his highest since 2019 and his second highest since 2014. He recorded a 90 wRC+ and represented a 1.5 WAR player.
–Yankees may have a surprise competitor in left field
The Yankees need to be preparing for Aaron Hicks to lose the LF spot:
By most accounts, the Hicks experiment has come to an end, despite the Yankees having three years and $30 million left on his deal. If he can resurrect his prime in 2023, general manager Brian Cashman will look like a genius, but I wouldn’t expect much better than his 2022 metrics. His Steamer projections have him hitting .223 with a .329 OBP, 10 homers, and 38 RBIs across 94 games.
Ultimately, if he can’t offer adequate offensive contributions, he at least needs to be a Gold Glove level defender, which he isn’t.
Boone is still optimistic that Hicks will bounce back, though. On Friday, he referenced a few adjustments the 33-year-old has made this off-season and that he’s physically in a good place.
“He’s working on shortening some things up [with his swing], making some adjustments, which are inevitable over the course of a career,” Boone said. “So physically he’s in a good space and I think mentally he’s ready to go and excited to be here to compete.”Via the NY Post.
The problem with Hicks hasn’t necessarily been physical, aside from a wrist injury that ended his 2021 season prematurely. Most of his struggles seem to be mental, losing confidence with every passing day as unfortunate cold streaks stretch on throughout the season. His big hits seem to be fueled by luck instead of consistency, which has become a liability for the Bombers in the batting order.
Prime Hicks was capable of leading off, as we saw back in 2017 when he got on base at a 37% clip. Even the 36.6% on-base rate he recorded in 2018 showcased his ability to create walks and put himself in scoring position.
Having already invested in his contract and Cashman unable to move him, the Yankees are simply hoping for a miracle unless Cabrera can unseat him and take over full-time, which would be the ideal scenario given his untapped potential.