Many Yankees followers had been left confused after the workforce introduced a seven-year contract for Aaron Hicks previous to the beginning of the 2019 season. Hicks, who had simply come off a season during which he was probably the most invaluable middle fielder within the American League not named Mike Trout, posted a career-high 127 OPS+ in 2018 whereas showing in 137 video games, and it earned him that seven yr, $70 million take care of an choice for the 2026 season.
Regardless of the pretty low annual wage, many puzzled if signing Hicks for a such a long-term deal made sense given his damage historical past, which included taking part in in simply 88 video games in 2017. These on that aspect of the argument had extra ammunition after Hicks missed the majority of 2019, although he did come again to hit one of many Yankees’ largest house runs of the yr in Recreation 5 of the ALCS earlier than needing Tommy John surgical procedure.
We’ve seen how Tommy John surgical procedure can have an effect on a place participant as soon as he makes his return, significantly with gamers like Corey Seager and former Yankee Didi Gregorius. It takes time, typically plenty of time, to shake off the rust and return to kind. Hicks actually went by way of that in 2020, however extra importantly, he confirmed that even when he isn’t making the standard of contact that he would really like, he can nonetheless work productive at-bats and provides the Yanks worth close to the highest of the lineup.
Hicks’ .414 slugging proportion in 2020 was his lowest since his first season with the Yankees in 2016, but he nonetheless managed to complete the yr with an OPS+ of 121. He did this by posting a stroll charge of 19.4 p.c, the third-highest in all of baseball behind solely Bryce Harper and Juan Soto — think about these two guys in the identical lineup. Hicks was an on-base machine, which is especially useful once you’re batting in entrance of fellows like Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton, who’re able to clearing the bases with one mighty swing. Hicks has additionally been among the many finest in baseball at working the rely full for years, which additionally offers the massive boppers behind him an added benefit of seeing the opposing pitcher’s full arsenal.
In fact, you want to see improved contact and an encouraging pattern as Hicks strikes farther from his surgical procedure, and Hicks confirmed that, ending the month of August with a 116 wRC+ earlier than bumping that to 128 in September. He additionally carried that momentum into the postseason and was among the many most precious bats within the lineup, placing up an OPS of .899 throughout 22 plate appearances towards a Rays pitching workers that’s among the many finest in baseball. Hicks continued to get higher because the season progressed, and maybe extra importantly, he stayed wholesome, lacking simply six video games between the common season and postseason mixed.
Hicks’ manufacturing on the plate and a capability to remain within the lineup shall be essential for the Yankees transferring ahead, given the truth that there isn’t a different middle discipline choice on the workforce. With Aaron Choose having damage issues of his personal, and Brian Cashman confirming that Giancarlo Stanton shall be primarily used as a DH from right here on out, the outfield depth might be examined, and having Hicks as a daily in middle can be a large weight off of Aaron Boone’s chest. If Hicks can keep wholesome, he’s proven why he was paid $70 million, and he even confirmed it whereas working his manner again from main surgical procedure.