Aaron Hicks is not in the starting nine for the Yankees. He is blocked at all three OF positions as well as DH. So what is there to love about Hicks? He is 26 years old and just came off a season in which he hit 11 HRs and stole 13 bases in only 97 games in 2015. His full fantasy line in was 11 HR, 48 R, 33 RBI, 13 SB, a .256 AVG and a .323 OBP. Prorated over 150 games that would have come out to 17 HR, 74 R, 51 RBI, and 20 SBs which is pretty fantastic. Can Hicks get the playing time this year to put up a stat line that good?
Let’s start with the guys blocking Hicks. Carlos Beltran is 38 years old and played in 133 games last year, Ellsbury is 32 and played in 111 games, and Gardner is also 32 and played in 151 games. All in all, this is an aging group and outside of Gardner, they haven’t been especially healthy. Beltran was worth an appalling -14 DRS last year and would likely be the full time DH if Alex Rodriguez was not around. If any of the four mentioned players get hurt, Hicks likely takes their spot (with Beltran sliding into the DH role if ARod goes down). Between aging and injuries, Hicks should get the opportunity to play. There is some risk involved as playing time isn’t guaranteed and he is more of a dynasty/keeper play than a standard league. However in a standard league, you could do a lot worse than to stash Hicks.
Hicks hit 11 HR last year with an 11.1 HR/FB% which seems legitimate albeit in a small sample size. Over his full career, he has a HR/FB of 9.7% and that included a horribly unlucky 3% in 2014. Hicks also has some power from both sides of the plate. As a lefty last year he hit five HRs and notched six as a righty. The great news here is that he is moving to a ballpark that is much better for HRs from both sides of the plate. For HRs, Yankee stadium rates as a 117 for LHB and 106 for RHB (with 100 being average) while Target rates 91 for LHB and 98 for RHB. If Hicks received 550 PAs he could threaten 25 HRs in that ballpark.
Hicks only hit .256 last year but there is upside there. His career BABIP is only .274 after a .285 BABIP last year. However, his LD rate was 22.9% and given his speed, .285 seems incredibly low. I’m not sure Hicks will ever hit .290 but if he can keep his LD rate at the current number, .256 should be his floor. He also lowered his K% to 16.9 after being above 24 during his first two stints in the majors. With an improving plate discipline and some positive BABIP regression, Hicks could be primed for an AVG and OBP jump.
Steamer is projecting Hicks for 7 HR, 30 R, 29 RBI, 6 SB, a .250 AVG and a .326 OBP in 37 games. I’m pretty bullish on Hicks and I think he plays over 100 games this year. Based on that, I’ll give him a line of 15 HRs, 52 R, 47 RBI, 17 SB, a .268 AVG and a .336 OBP. As I stated above, Hicks is more of a long term play and given his non-starting status, I’d be trying to make a play for him now before he makes it into the starting lineup.