Despite the fact that veteran outfielder Aaron Hicks hasn’t had a successful season since 2018, the New York Yankees continue to trott him out as an everyday starter. For the time being, Hicks is considered the primary option in left-field unless an alternative can replace him. The only other competitors are Oswaldo Cabrera, Estevan Florial, Rafael Ortega, and Willie Calhoun.
Hicks should have an easy time beating out that mixture of talent, even though Cabrera posted phenomenal defensive metrics last season across 44 regular season games. His offensive quality still needs plenty of experience and time to grow, whereas Hicks has proven to be efficient in the past, but that was nearly four years ago.
Last season, the 33-year-old outfielder hit .216 with a .330 OBP, eight homers, and 40 RBIs. He struck out at a 24.1% clip, the highest since 2019 and the second highest since 2014. Hicks considers his 2022 season to be “rock-bottom,” going through lengthy cold streaks that felt like an eternity.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t until he felt his lowest he began to produce, potentially adopting a careless approach that allowed him to look beyond the pressure of being a New York Yankee.
“Once I pretty much hit rock bottom is when I actually produced a little bit better,” Hicks said. “I started to have success. There was a time where I hit three home runs within a week’s span. I was starting to roll … and then the Tampa game.”Per Randy Miller of NJ.com.
The Yankees need to add real competition and not prayers:
Fans have been specifically hard on Hicks over the past few seasons, and it’s not entirely his fault. General manager Brian Cashman could’ve easily replaced his lack of production and inconsistencies, but he continues to trott him out despite the mental roadblocks and physical limitations after suffering a wrist injury in 2021.
Unfortunately, failing to add competition has hurt Hicks’s ability to provide consistency. The Yankees have had no choice but to utilize him as their primary starter, and without proper reinforcements, he’s been stuck fending off the wolves. Cashman did acquire Andrew Benintendi last year at the deadline, but an injury ended his season prematurely.
The Yankees didn’t make any significant additions at the position this off-season, so Hicks is trying to change the narrative and forget about the 2022 campaign, looking ahead toward a brighter future.
“What happened last year happened,” Hicks said. “Now it’s onto the next year. I’m healthy, I’m building and I’m trying to have a great season.”
His Steamer projections have him hitting .223 with a .33 OBP, 11 homers, and 41 RBIs with a 102 wRC+. If he can offer league-average defense and maintain a double-digit walk rate while reducing his chase rate, he can be of value.
The problem is his hard-hit metrics continue to regress over time. He posted his lowest hard-hit rate since 2017 at 33.1% and his lowest barrel rate since 2016 at 5.8%. His average exit velocity dropped to its lowest point, and everything about his game felt off.
Aaron Hicks is running out of time, but he could bounce back:
Aaron may bounce back with a proficient season, but fans are tired of waiting for that to happen and prefer to bring in fresh blood. Cashman may do that later on in the season, finding a healthy alternative over the summer instead of pulling the trigger now and risking assets.
The team has time to figure out if they have a long-term solution at the position, and if Hicks bounces back, they won’t need to acquire a left-fielder after all. Playing it conservatively isn’t a bad move since the Yankees have plenty of time to win games during the year’s first half. After all, it wasn’t until the 2nd half of 2022 when things fell apart, indicating even Hicks struggling wasn’t enough to slow them down.