Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees (Photo: nj.com)

Aaron Hicks: The Yankees Most Invisible Most Valuable Player

There’s an Aaron Hicks on almost every team in the big leagues. He’s the player who is spectacular at nothing, good at everything…and indispensable.

Update: February 24 ,2019 1:30 PM EST

The Yankees have agreed to an extension with Aaron Hicks for seven-years and $70 million. Perfect!

In 2015, Aaron Hicks wandered in the outfield for the Minnesota Twins. In need of a back-up catcher, Yankees GM Brian Cashman had one in John Ryan Murphy and smelling one of those, “I can’t believe they’re giving up on this guy” trades, Cashman, with little or no noise in the New York media, brought Hicks in to play for the Yankees.

Since then, and most especially last season, Aaron Hicks has quietly become one of the most valuable position players on the Yankees. In 2018, for instance, J.T. Realmuto, Noah Syndergaard, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Votto, and Bryce Harper all finished below Aaron Hicks in that all-important stat called W.A.R. or Wins Above Replacement (Source: Fangraphs). Flying under the radar has become the trademark of Aaron Hicks.

But that could be changing. In a story from today’s New York Post and aptly titled, “The Yankees’ Secret Weapon Isn’t So Secret Anymore,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone gushed with enthusiasm about Hicks:

“I think Aaron Hicks is maybe the most underrated player in the game. He is such a valuable player, playing a premium position,’’ Boone said before praising the switch-hitter’s plate discipline. “As good as our guys control the strike zone he is probably the poster child for it. And the ability to hit with power and the speed he brings. He is really a complete player”.George King III, New York Post

Let’s go  a bit deeper. Aaron Hicks led the Yankees in walks last season with 90. He was on base one out of every three times he came to bat (.366 OBP). Coupled with his 27 home runs, Aaron Boone can place him anywhere in the Yankees lineup while being assured that Hicks will produce as his placement in the order requires.

Photo Credit: Erik Boland, Newsday
Photo Credit: Erik Boland, Newsday

What’s most exciting about Hicks though, is his upside as he enters the 2019 season at age 29. Progressively, Hicks has gotten better and better, meaning, for instance, he should be more of an impact base stealer (11 in 13 tries) and hit for more doubles (only 18) while striking out fewer times (111 in 2018).

Aaron Hicks also needs to be in the Yankees lineup more than he has been able to (137 games). He appears to be susceptible to hamstring injuries, and that could be a reason he avoids those jump starts required to steal bases and the acceleration needed to stretch singles into doubles.

A gazelle in the outfield with reminders of Bernie Williams and those loping strides he used to take in tracking down balls, Aaron Hicks has a total of only eight errors in his six-year big league career. Strong arm? No problem, watch this.

The guy in the clubhouse? Pretty much the same – low key – and doesn’t speak until he’s spoken to. But the fires burn inside Aaron Hicks, and when asked by Coley Harvey of ESPN how he feels coming into Spring Training, Hicks tersely replied:

“I want to win a World Series,” Hicks continued. “I’m tired of losing. We’ve come so close, but I’m tired of saying we came close.”

Which follows the same mantra we’ve heard from Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia – they’re tired of going year after year (to the Yankees way of thinking) with nothing to show for it, since a decade ago when they won the 27th World Series.

“It’s been a disappointing 10 years,” the 35-year-old outfielder said. “It’s flown by. It’s been way too long.Coley Harvey, New York Post

It’s a refrain we’ve heard over and over again since the Red Sox dumped the Yankees in the ALDS without breaking a sweat last October.

One lone and unnamed writer saw fit to cast a vote for Aaron Hicks as the AL Most Valuable Player. If he can stay healthy enough to play in 10-15 more games this season, and based on the upward trajectory of his production, more writers will join in to elevate Hicks in the results of the 2019 balloting.

It’s no longer the Yankees’ secret. Aaron Hicks is an integral part of the Yankees, and his value to the team will go a long way to securing that elusive Number 28.

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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