TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at

Read more about them.

TwinsCentric: Aaron Hicks' rising stock

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: October 19, 2012 - 12:07 AM


As Seth Stohs mentioned yesterday, while the rest of us at Twins Daily were all stark raving mad about Kyle Gibson’s performance in the Arizona Fall League, another Twins prospect was making noise even further south. Outfielder Aaron Hicks, who is playing winter ball in Venezuela, is off to a fast start this offseason, matching the expectation he set from his in-season performance at New Britain.

Of course, not long ago, Hicks was in danger of falling off the “top prospect” radar although. Heading into the 2011 season, Baseball America dropped him from 19th to 45th despite a terrific first full season at the low-A level in Beloit. Then, as if Baseball America’s rankings had influence, Hicks lost some power and over 30 points in the batting average at Ft Myers the following year.

The criticism on Hicks’s approach is that he could be too passive at times. Hicks boasts a high strikeout rate and a significant portion of those (39%) in 2011 were of the caught-looking variety, an indication that he was not aggressive enough with two strikes on him. Of course, the other side of the coin is that it has led to a 14% career minor league walk rate – a solid pillar supporting his .379 on-base percentage. While walks are en vogue with OBP-ers, there are those in the system who would like to see him use his six-foot-two athletic frame to transfer some power into the ball.

His 2010 season at Beloit had him smacking eight home runs but that total dwindled down to five after his foray with the Miracle in Fort Myers. Part of the reason for the drop off simply had to do with the offensive difficulty of the Florida State League. As the Star Tribune’s Phil Miller explained this year, hitting is dern tough way down south:

Those fences are one reason. Most Florida State League parks double as spring-training homes for major-league teams, and are built with larger dimensions than plenty of minor-league parks around the country. The quality of pitchers tends to be high, too, with more college pitchers, armed with more than only a fastball, than in the lower levels.

Then there's the weather -- beautiful in April and May, but frequently blistering hot, with heavy humidity, once summer arrives. The temperature takes a toll on everyday players as the season wears on, until "you're so worn out by the end of the game," according to Morneau. "It's hard to maintain your strength."

When he transitioned from high-A ball in the Florida State League to an even more polished level of competition of the double-A Eastern League, rather than being buried by the tougher pitching Hicks elevated his game. His matriculation to double-A ball could have also been a hindrance - given the significant leap in talent - but Hicks did not allow it. He hit a healthy .286/.384/.460 with 13 home runs.  

Where did this production come from? Was it simply a course correction after leaving the Florida State League or did Hicks make adjustments elsewhere?

Being a switch-hitter, Hicks has had two sides of the plate in which to polish his mechanics and both have undergone some interesting transformations since 2011.

Hicks from the right:



While the angles and the graininess of the 2012 minor league camera shot do not provide the highest quality to judge these two stances on, there are some things that you can derive without having the same shot side-by-side.

The first is where his hands are set pre-swing. While he has a similar hold, in these two pictures you can see that his elbows/hands are lower during his time with the Miracle (left) then they were with the Rock Cats (right). This may sound like a minute detail but elevated hands, in theory, create more leverage by engaging the top hand. For a line drive/ground ball hitter, this equates to harder hit balls, perhaps as easily identifiable as his spike in isolated power (from  .124 in 2011 to .173 in 2012) and a big jump in batting average on balls in play (from .308 to .346).  

The second difference between 2011 Hicks and 2012 Hicks is the lowered stance with the deeper knee bend. This compacted stance figures to generate more power from his hips and lower half.  In addition to the higher hand set this, according to, has lead to a higher fly ball rate from the right-side (from 29% in 2011 to 39% in 2012) and more home runs (from 3 to 7).

Hicks from the left:



The same disclaimer from above applies to this one as well: the angle and the graininess distort some perception and do not provide a crystal clear view to compare fully.

As opposed to the shots above, these two images are of Hicks striding from the left-hand side.

The first thing that stands out is where his hands are had at the loaded position. In the 2011 instance (left), his hands are lower and, judging by the angle, closer to his body. In the 2012 version (right), his hands are slightly higher and away from his body. This should give him a quicker path to the ball.

Interestingly, when Hicks was first drafted, he had a severely long swing from the left side (which you can see in this pre-draft swing .gif here). His hands were significantly higher which led to an elongated swing. So these modifications are simply the evolution in shortening that swing. Also, similar to the aforementioned right-hand side, he is also compacted more which gives leaves him able to generate power from the lower-half better.

The alterations made have led to a higher line drive rate (from 13% to 19%) and more power (from 2 home runs to 6) from this side of the plate.


This should be viewed as very positive development for the 23 year old prospect. Along with his above average defense – including his exceptional arm in the outfield – Hicks has reaffirmed the belief that he is an elite prospect after putting up terrific numbers in double-A. With some seasoning in Rochester schedule for this year, if this progress continues, Hicks could quickly make his way into the Twins outfield. 



Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question