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Top 15 Prospects - #2 Aaron Hicks | February

2. Aaron Hicks, OF, 20 years old


(courtesy thesportsbank.net)

2010 stats: .279/.401/.428 with 88/112 BB/K and 21 steals in 33 attempts in 115 games for Beloit. (Low-A)
Last year's rank: 1
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins 14th overall in the 2008 June Major League Draft.

Ever since Hicks was drafted out of Wilson High School in Long Beach California, he has been considered one of the Twins top prospects, both nationally and amongst the Twins blogosphere. Many teams saw Hicks' 97 MPH fastball and wanted to draft him as a pitcher. Hicks however wanted to be a center-fielder, which suited the Twins just fine. The Twins, with their history of drafting toosly high school outfielders, saw Hicks as a future five tool stud.

He signed quickly and started hot in rookie ball for the Gulf Coast League Twins. The 18 year old had a .318/.409/.491 line with 12 steals in 204 plate appearances. A great opening act! At 19, he was promoted to low A Beloit Snappers. He went .251/.353/.382 with 10 stolen bases out of 18 tries in 297 plate appearances. A solid first attempt at A ball for a 19 year old, still adjusting to pro ball and growing into his 5 tools.

Coming into the 2010 season, Hicks was atop most blogger prospect lists as well as the Twins top representative on many top minor league prospects lists throughout the league. Here is some of what MLB.com wrote about Hicks in ranking him #29 out of 50:

Scouting report: Hicks has the kind of raw tools scouts love to dream about. He's got terrific speed that he'll be able to use on both sides of the ball (defensively, he already does, but he's got to learn the nuances of base running). He's got great bat speed which should generate plenty of power as he matures. A former pitcher who could crank it up into the upper 90s, Hicks has one of the best outfield arms in the Minors. One thing Hicks has above some other raw, toolsy types is an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. All he needs is experience for the performance to catch up with the tools.

Upside potential: When all is said and done, Hicks could be a franchise type player, a power-speed combination who will provide Gold Glove caliber defense in center field.

Pretty lofty expectations. How did Hicks do in 2010? His line of .279/.401/.428 in 528 plate appearances while repeating at low A was fair, but it was by no means worthy of the gaudy expectations. The fact is, Hicks had an awful May, hitting only .214/.321/.313. Is Hicks streaky? Was he fighting injury? A bad month does not make a bad year and at 20 years old, Hicks is still learning the game. MLB.com is still high on him, ranking him #39 going into 2011. Keith Law had him ranked 10th overall.

Is there anything to worry about? Some Twins fans starting to get a little impatient with Hicks progress. Guys like Jason Heyward (20 years old) and Mike Stanton (also 20) were drafted a year ahead of Hicks and have already made a splash in the major leagues. Joe Mauer made the opening day roster just shy of his 21st birthday and  Hicks at 21 will start 2011 in high A ball. While fans will look at how other prospects are moving, Hicks will be worth the wait. Hicks may be a couple years from the majors, but he is still young and all of the talent is there, he just needs a little longer to develop. Better to wait for Hicks than to rush him and have another Lasting Milledge. Is Hicks a lock to be an all star MLB 5 tool player? No. He's the Twins prospect most likely to be a major league star. 

Ideal Scenario: Hicks will start the season in Fort Myers with a chance for a mid-season promotion to New Britain. 2011 will be a big year for his development. Ideally, he will cut down on his strikeout rate.

Path to the majors: Hicks is still a couple of years from the majors. With guys like Micheal Cuddyer and Jason Kubel probably leaving for free agency, there will be openings for the guys ahead of Hicks in the system. If Ben Revere and Joe Benson work out, the Twins could use their OF depth to trade for other need areas. Hicks could be the centerpiece in a trade for a stud major leaguer. The Twins have a ton of outfield prospect depth with Hicks being the leader of the group.