Aaron Hicks has all of a sudden become yet another middle-of-the-order bat who can potentially reach up to 30 home runs. No one thought Didi Gregorius had that kind of power, but should he have a relatively injury-free season in the near future, that number is most definitely within reach. And like with Gregorius, Hicks was brought in through one of Cashman’s trade steals. The center fielder came to the Bronx for catcher J.R. Murphy. Where is Murphy now? He is the Diamondbacks backup catcher hitting .207. Plus, he is not even J.R. anymore – he has since expanded it out to John Ryan.
Hicks has already set career-highs in at-bats, runs, home runs, RBI, walks, slugging, OPS, and OPS+ (as of September 3) – and there are still a few weeks left in the season. He ranks third in all of baseball with a 4.4 fWAR among center fielders. So how did Cashman pull off this heist of a trade back in November 2015?
One major thing that has spiked has been Hicks’ power.
New York Yankees
Going by OPS+, Hicks was a well below average player before coming over. Additionally, his wins above average was -0.9 with the Twins. It has since swelled to 3.8. He appears to be in the top three in the majors in many major categories among center fielders, including HR, RBI, wRC+, and fWAR.
But let’s look at Hicks individually. The general trend of his BB% going up and that of his K% is going down. Furthermore, when someone sees a player become a Yankee and sees their power numbers go up, a likely assumption is that they are utilizing the short-porch. Hicks is no exception. He is definitely hitting a lot less ball the opposite way, but he is not necessarily pulling everything – his up-the-middle rate has ticked up as well.
In terms of pitch types, Hicks has been mashing fastballs in 2018. His fastball runs above average this year is 15.2. Last year it was 7.9, but before that the highest it had been was 0.4. In fact, his runs above average on sliders, curveballs, changeups, and even split-fingers are all career-highs.
All of these batting improvements are great, but Hicks has kept up his stellar defense in center field and is one of the faster Yankees with an average sprint speed of 28.0 feet per second. I think it’s fair to say the Yankees won this trade, as Hicks looks to be the center fielder for the foreseeable future.