Aaron Hicks is on his way to becoming one of the only players in MLB history to undergo Tommy John surgery and not miss a single game (former Yankee legend Tony Womack also accomplished that feat), and that’s big news for the Yankees.
Sure, Hicks’ ability to not miss a single game despite major surgery is due to the massive delay to the 2020 season that is currently scheduled to end on July 23, Regardless, given the Yankees’ current roster and what Hicks has been able to do when healthy, he will be one of the most important pieces to the Bombers’ success over this 60-game season.
First, it’s important to remember Hicks’ value when he’s healthy. He’s had his struggles with injury in the past — he played in 88 games in 2017 and just 59 games in 2019 — but in 2018, when he played nearly a full season, his 5.0 WAR was the second-highest in the American League among center fielders, trailing only Mike Trout of course. That mark was also the third-highest in all of baseball among center fielders, and his ability to work counts makes him a great bat at the top of the order, as he was among the league leaders in working full counts in 2018. He also did a great job working the count in the Yankees’ last win of 2019, getting the count full on Justin Verlander before blasting a three-run home run off the foul pole in Game Five of the ALCS.
Hicks’ value this season goes beyond his own. The Yankees were decimated by injury last season, and the outfield already has its question marks for 2020. Giancarlo Stanton says he is pretty much 100 percent with the strained calf he suffered during spring training, but the outlook is that he will be in a DH role when the season begins. That puts the expected regular left fielder out of commission for the near future, so Brett Gardner can slide into that role. Clint Frazier was a backup option for the outfield, but he has been slowed down in his preparations for the season due to a foot issue that he has been dealing with for a couple of months, according to Aaron Boone.
If Hicks weren’t ready for Opening Day, the Yanks would have trouble filling the outfield, and that’s before addressing how Aaron Judge will respond when he gets into game action for the first time since undergoing treatment for a rib fracture and punctured lung suffered last season. Needless to say, Hicks is very important to the team’s chances this year.
We’ve seen through Didi Gregorius that it takes time to bounce back from Tommy John surgery. However, a player like Hicks that can consistently get deep into counts could show his value even before he feels 100 percent again in game action. Hicks said he feels game-ready, and that would be a massive boost for the Yankees.