NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Aaron Hicks #31 of the New York Yankees catches a foul ball for an out in the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium on April 21, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
While we all toil over Aaron Hicks and debate this topic as if it will be the deciding factor in the ALCS, I’ll be the first to admit it probably won’t matter in the end. What probably happens is Gleyber Torres continues to go off. He continues to be one of the key cogs in the Yankee offense. We’ll all celebrate this and the Hicks news goes to the back burner.
Of course that’s for the future. Right now we’re living in the present and it’s time to over-analyze this topic.
I see the Yankees go about Aaron Hicks a few ways. The first is that the Yankees leave him off entirely and bring him in in case of injury. Guys like Cameron Maybin and Brett Gardner certainly proved their worth.
The next is he takes Maybin’s spot. (Pretty controversial a thought being he hit that home run the other day and has been a great defensive replacement for Giancarlo Stanton.) Gardner starts and Hicks comes off the bench as a defensive replacement. He would essentially be doing the job of Maybin as a late inning substitution.
The next way is similar. Right now, Luke Voit has sat through the entire postseason. He hasn’t gotten a single lick of an at-bat and he certainly won’t come in as a defensive replacement. The Yankees could replace him with Hicks and, just as I said in the previous scenario, he’d come in as a late inning substitution. At this point Hicks’ defense brings more value to this team than Voit on the bench. By doing this, you keep Maybin on the roster and have two stolen base threats between he and Tyler Wade on the bench.
The third scenario has Hicks starting over Gardner. If the Yankees do this, here is how I would do it” have him replace Voit or Maybin – leaning more toward Voit – bat him toward the bottom of the order and move Gleyber up to the three hole.
Argument for Hicks
It would be easy to leave him off considering he has been out most of the year but consider what the Yankee lineup did best in the ALDS. They were able to grind pitchers down. You add a guy like Hicks in there, even if he doesn’t have the power numbers you’d like – and it’s expected because nobody is a freak like Edwin Encarnacion – he can still pass the baton as well as anyone.
In 2018 he lead the league in Pitches Per Plate Appearance with 4.28. He had a 15.5% Walk percentage. That put him at 8th in the league in the category. He also had a .8 BB/K’s. That put him at 14th in that particular category. (Minimum 300 PA.)
I don’t know how well they would be able to grind down Gerrit Cole, but this is something they can certainly do against Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander. Grienke is like an Italian grandmother on the mound during the playoffs cooking up meatballs for the whole family, and Verlander has been completely overworked this postseason and he’s only been out there twice.
Any and all grinders are welcome in my book.
Argument against Hicks
Let’s say Hicks comes back and is healthy. There’s a really good chance he goes out to patrol the field. Here’s the thing though. He might not be better at it than Gardner. Let’s compare Hicks’ 2018 to Gardner’s 2019:
Aaron Hicks 2018
Outs Above Replacement: bottom 24th percentile
Outfielder Jump – bottom 17th percentile
Sprint Speed – top 76th percentile
Brett Gardner 2019
Outs AboveReplacement: Top 60th percentile
Outfielder Jump: 61st percentile
Sprint Speed: top 91st percentile
Brett Gardner, defensively, has garnered better results this year than Aaron Hicks did last year during his breakout year. (On top of this he has produced at the plate. He is their three hitter so, yeah. Seems they like that guy a lot.) Now this isn’t to say Hicks is a bad defender. I’m a big, big fan of data but if you watch a game, you can see that Hicks gets to a lot. I mean, who could forget the catch?