Fort Myers, FLA – It’s the moment when expectations are high, but the road to the Majors is still long. Aaron Hicks is there, experiencing the heady feeling of being widely considered the Twins top prospect.
“The exciting thing is there’s no limit to his ceiling,” said VP of Player Personnel Mike Radcliff.
A gifted two-way athlete, Hicks was once regarded among the top prep pitchers in the country, but the Twins drafted him as a center fielder in the 2008 draft. Hicks has exceptional talent at the plate, but as he moves up, he knows he still has adjustments to make.
“I’m working on my speed,” said Hicks. “Trying to get ahead of the game – stealing bases, getting a good jump on balls as well, is most important for me right now.”
The team is also focused on improving his ability to execute the fundamentals of manning the outfield.
“He’s still learning his position as far as running for balls, angles, routes, jumps, where to position himself," said Radcliff.
In 2009, Hicks played 67 games at Beloit and demonstrated above-average patience as well as impressive power for a center fielder. Still physically filling out, the 20-year-old has a fast bat and above-average speed.
Beloit hitting Coach Chris Heintz saw Hicks play for two months in the 2009 season. He witnessed a young man making his mark at his position.
“He’s already an above-average center fielder,” he said. “I think playing in more games will get him more comfortable out there. That’ll be taken care of the more he plays.”
A five-tool player who’s projected to man center field for the Twins in 2012, Hicks played in the GCL in 2008 where he exhibited range in the field and raw strength. His versatility makes his place in the batting order a wide open field in the future.
“He’s got the durability to be a leadoff guy, but also great to put in the middle of the lineup,” Radcliff said. “He’s superbly talented. Good speed, with a good arm, and power.”
Heintz agrees with this assessment.
“He has the speed to be a leadoff hitter, but also the plate discipline to be an early part of the order guy,” Heintz said.
“More games and moving to the higher levels will give him more discipline and patience. The more pitch reading he does, the better he’ll get. Some things you can teach. Some of it is just getting out there and doing it,” Heintz said.
A young player with as much natural talent and hype as Hicks can easily lose direction, if he doesn't appreciate his opportunity. The Twins are well aware of Hicks physical gifts. But he’s still developing the baseball intelligence needed to get to the Majors and be consistent.
“Trying to apply all that natural talent on the defense side and develop that instinct and feel for the game…that’s what we’re working on polishing,” Radcliff said.
Hicks spent two months in 2009 at Beloit and has opened the 2010 season there again – he's had a rough first week.
“I was impressed with the plate discipline he already has. He’s learning how to get good pitches to hit,” Heintz said. “And he’s already pretty darn good. A player that special will figure it out.”