It’s no secret the Yankees have been bit by the injury bug recently. Most of the focus has gone to the status of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton, who should all be ready to go for Opening Day about a month from now.
The Yankees also had two key players who needed Tommy John surgery last winter, and although Luis Severino is out for the 2020 season, it seems as though Aaron Hicks will be able to play a significant chunk of the season for the Yankees. Tommy John surgery isn’t as damaging for position players as it is for pitchers, but it’s still an injury that could have cost Hicks serious time. Instead, the center fielder may be able to play almost the entirety of the abbreviated 2020 season. Hicks told the New York Post that he’d be ready to go, and he looks like himself in this video from last week:
Hicks had surgery in late October, which should have sidelined him for 8-10 months. A late July Opening Day is almost nine months from his surgery, which is right around the time he’d be slated to come back anyway. The difference now is that the Yankees don’t have to play half their season without one of their lineup catalyst—they’ll have him from the get-go.
He will mostly help the Yankees by providing balance and length to their lineup. The Yankees’ 2020 lineup has more right-handed batters than in past years, with Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman the only semi-regulars who are either left-handed or switch-hitters. The return of the switch-hitting Hicks gives the Yankees someone they can plug between some right-handed bats to split them up.
Sometimes, splitting up the lineup and shoehorning an inferior left-handed hitter between your best three hitters (who happen to be right-handed) is not the best idea because it temporarily lets the opposing pitcher off the hook. With Hicks, though, he can fit anywhere in the lineup and not really miss a beat. He’s capable of serving as a leadoff or two-hole hitter with his excellent plate discipline, and also has enough pop to hit in the middle of the order. Hicks’ versatile skill set gives Aaron Boone more options, which is never a bad thing.
It stands to reason that Hicks might need some days at designated hitter if his arm is not up to full strength, but that really wasn’t an issue with Didi Gregorius last year. Gregorius was recovering from the same surgery and spent only one game out of 82 as a designated hitter. However, Gregorius didn't have the same success as he had in past years, so maybe more rest wouldn’t be a bad thing for Hicks, especially given the depth of the Yankees’ offense.
Hicks’ return also helps the Yankees with more than just the bat. Hicks grades out as an above-average defender and baserunner, things that every team needs. The Yankees have one of the best defensive outfields in baseball, and that’s thanks in large part to how Hicks patrols center field.
The Yankees are a better, more complete team when Hicks is on the field. They had the depth to cover for Hicks while he was injured, but now they may not need to cover for him at all. More depth is never a bad thing, and in getting back Aaron Hicks, the Yankees are getting back a key contributor to their 2020 season.