7. Aaron Hicks, Center field, 22 years old
2011 Stats: .242/.354/.368 with 5 HRs and 17 SB in 26 attempts for Fort Myers.
Last Year's Rank: 2
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins 14th overall in the 2008 June Major League Draft out of Woodrow Wilson HS in Los Angeles.
Twins fans are historically a patient lot. Sure, there are fringe characters out there, but for the most part, the fan base is patient with its team and prospects. Will 2012 be the season that Twins fans run out of patience with Aaron Hicks? Hicks was considered the crown jewel of the system with his 5 tools and projectable frame, but as he begins his 5th year in the system, he isn't progressing the way many thought he would.
Hicks spent 2011 in Fort Myers after spending two years in Beloit. He has established very nice on-base skills and has gap power, but hasn't been able to generate home run power yet. He also gets caught stealing too much and strikes out too much. Hicks is still young. At 22 in AA, he will still be pretty young for the level, but is he slow to develop or are his flaws holding him back?
A great defensive CF with a .265/.375/.407 line and a 67% stolen base rate looks less like a 5 tool star and more like a 4th OF. What happens if Hicks has another year with a low .700s OPS? One argument has been to scrap switch hitting and have Hicks just hit right handed. In 2010 he hit .248/.383/.339 from the left side and .362/.449/.663 from the right side and in 2011 he had a .219/.349/.337 line from the left side and .259/.342/.391 from the right. His splits were much more pronounced in 2010 but he has a better batting average and more power from the right side. While becoming a strict right handed hitter could improve his numbers, he'd also lose the righty/lefty advantage batting right-handed vs. a right-handed pitcher. He also is not used to hitting right-handed versus right-handed pitchers. He could also be returned to the mound. He was highly thought of as a high school pitcher with a 97 MPH fastball and if he looks to be a mediocre player, a switch to the mound might be in order.
Ideal scenario: Hope Hicks is a late bloomer. Hicks starts to put everything together (he is .250/.273/.550 through 6 games) and starts to develop those potential 20-20 tools in New Britain. Hopefully he can build on his Arizona Fall league .294/.400/.559. Torii Hunter had a .270/.334./417 line and Denard Span had a .286/.355/.356 line in the minors so there is still plenty of hope for Hicks. He's actually been better than both Hunter and Span were at age 22.
Path to the majors: The Twins have a good group of OFs ahead of Hicks right now, so the Twins can take their time with him. Span, Josh Willingham and Ben Revere in the majors and Joe Benson in AAA are all ahead of Hicks. If Hicks starts to come around this year, it will give the Twins options to trade Denard Span or perhaps Hicks himself. Don't expect to see Hicks until late 2013.
Prospect #8 and the rest start here.