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Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Aaron Hicks has been something of an enigma throughout his career. Drafted in the first round in 2008 from high school in Long Beach, California, Hicks is a very impressive athlete with above-average speed, strength, and a strong throwing arm. He's earned a reputation for superior outfield defense, more than capable of handling center field in the majors. He's a threat on the bases as well, swiping 32 bags this season for Double-A New Britain.
The bat has been problematic. A switch-hitter, he has a patient approach and is selective, drawing an average of 81 walks the last three seasons. Scouts have generally praised his raw power, especially from the right side, but until this year he didn't show it in games very often, at least for home runs.
That changed this year with a solid .285/.382/.459 performance line in the Eastern League, with 21 doubles, 11 triples, and 13 homers in 473 at-bats. He also scored 100 runs, and set career-best marks in most offensive categories. He just turned 23 last week, so he's not an old prospect even though it may seem like he's been around forever.
Nobody expects Hicks to win batting titles; he strikes out too much to project that. But if he continues to tap his power, draw walks, steal some bases, and play sharp defense, he would certainly fit as a regular. Gradewise, I gave him B+ grades for the first three years of his career, then dropped him to a B- entering 2012 after a mediocre '11 campaign. For 2013, he's at least a Grade B and I may go back up to B+, which would get him back onto the Top 50 list entering the spring.
So, anyway, with all that setup, here's the question for you.
If you were the Twins, would it be worthwhile to strongly consider Hicks as a regular outfielder entering 2013? Would you send Hicks to Triple-A in April but call him up by mid-season if he plays well? Or are Hicks' weaknesses such that he definitely needs a full year in Triple-A?
To put it another way, is he currently better than Ben Revere?