Aaron Hicks suffered a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist in May of 2021. It would cut short a campaign in which he slashed .194/.294/.333 with four homers and 14 RBI in 108 at-bats through just 32 games. Yet prior to the 2022 season, the narrative surrounding Aaron Hicks was surprisingly positive. The injury was viewed as a blip, not something that could be career altering.
He was in much better shape, having lost 15 pounds, offering a glimmer of hope that he could bounce back. He was slated to be the Opening Day Center Fielder, on track to be an integral part of the Yankees’ 2022 plans.
A Not-So-Bad Start
Hicks started his 2022 with a fine April, slashing .306/.426/.367 with a 135 wRC+ and a .356 wOBA. But a lack of power (just one HR in April) and deteriorating skill as a Center Fielder started to show. His wrist injury sapped his power, but he was still getting on base.
The Warning Signs
Then came May, where Hicks’ struggles began. In 83 plate appearances, he slashed .127/.253/.141 with a .200 wOBA and a 25 wRC+. He also began his transition to full-time left fielder, as it became clear that every day center fielder wasn’t the job for him.
By the end of June Hicks was practically fully phased out of the Center Field spot. His power remained non-existent, with just two home runs in the month, but he got on-base at a .356 clip and put up a respectable 111 wRC+.
He followed that up with an even better July, where he slashed .275/.412/.478 with a .378 wOBA and a 157 wRC+. Wait a minute, were we too hard on this guy? Well, maybe not. After a nice June and July, Hicks would slash .178/.263/.263 with a .241 wOBA and a 54 wRC+ in the final two months of the season.
In a September 9th matchup against the Rays, Hicks’ nightmare year came to a head as he was booed off the field and onto the bench. In the top of the 4th inning, with two outs and runners on first and second, Hicks chased a Wander Franco fly ball down the left field line. The ball would pop out of his glove, landing in fair territory. Instead of hustling to pick it up, he stood there hanging his head. That would allow two runners to score, giving Tampa a 3-0 lead.
The very next at-bat, Hicks misplayed another fly-ball, allowing another run to score. I was lucky enough to be at this game, and I hadn’t heard a player booed like that since A-Rod. For the condensed clip of those gaffes, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8pzXAr_Zz0.
The final product for Hicks was a season slash line of .216/.330/.313 with a .303 wOBA and a 90 wRC+. He was a well below average hitter who had a season marked by defensive lapses. The cherry on top was Hicks’ season-ending injury in the postseason.
Loads of uncertainty surrounded Hicks’ future entering the offseason. The acquisition of Harrison Bader, Stanton getting outfield reps, and the rise of Oswaldo made it seem like it was time for the Yankees to move on. Left field was at the top of the ‘please fix’ list for the Yankees heading into the offseason. And more specifically, what to do with Aaron Hicks. There was chatter about attaching a prospect or two to him in a trade just to get rid of him.
Well, with 2023 Spring Training practically underway, Aaron Hicks is still here. And he’s likely to be the Opening Day left fielder. So through one of the most toxic seasons for any Yankee player in recent memory, he survived.
He still has $30 million and three years left on his contract, and has underperformed throughout its duration. But Aaron Boone had some kind words for Hicks this week, saying “He’s working on shortening some things up [with his swing], making some adjustments, which are inevitable over the course of a career,” he said. “So physically he’s in a good space and I think mentally he’s ready to go and excited to be here to compete.”
That’s good ‘manager talk’, but 2023 is Aaron Hicks’ last chance at relevancy. Not so long ago, the outlook for Hicks was overly positive. He had back-to-back 130 wRC+ seasons in 2017 and 2018, posting wOBA’s north of .360 in each while showing an elite mix of speed, power and on-base ability. He had potential to be a 30/30 player. FanGraphs’ Steamer projections have Hicks slated for a 102 wRC+. That likely won’t be enough for someone playing for their career. at 33-years-old and on the back-end of a bloated contract, Aaron Hicks is getting one last chance to dance.