It’s safe to say that Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks is not having a good time at the moment. His offensive performance has tanked in the last two seasons, and he had a forgettable game on Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he badly misplayed a fly ball in center field and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and grounded into a double play with the bases loaded.
Aaron Hicks, professional athlete... I'm told pic.twitter.com/W7IAp4D34p— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) August 16, 2022
Monday was ugly, but the truth is Hicks has been underperforming for a while now. He is slashing .218/.339/.305 with a .644 OPS and a 92 wRC+ for the season, but the production has been unbearable in his last 30 games: .181/.319/.223 with just one home run.
The bigger problem, however, is that this might be who Hicks is at this point. If we combine his performance from the last two seasons, we have a .212/.327/.313 hitter with an 84 OPS+ in 493 plate appearances. We might be past the point in which excuses about Hicks being injured or recently removed from surgery are made.
This year, there hasn’t been a player with a worse WPA (Win Probability Added) than Hicks. He has -2.91 WPA, so he actively makes the Yankees a worse team when he is on the field. Hicks has also performed quite poorly with runners in scoring position (.593 OPS, 65 wRC+), and since he has been much better with nobody on base (97 wRC+), it may be a sign that he is pressing. Just by listening to his postgame interviews, you can tell that his head may be his worst enemy right now — the negative reaction from the crowd about his performance clearly affects him, and how could it not? He is human, after all.
“Horrible. Honestly, horrible,” Hicks told The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner last week. “My on-base percentage has still been high, but there have been so many highs and lows. I started off the season good. I was hitting for a high average for a while. I wasn’t really hitting for much power. I then went into a deep slump where I had a lot of loud outs and really wasn’t doing much. I was struggling with guys in scoring position. That’s just the game.”
It’s fair to say many of the things he describes are still happening. His power has been virtually non-existent, and the lows are becoming a norm, unfortunately. The thing is, the Yankees are kind of forced to go with Hicks at the moment because the alternatives, namely Tim Locastro and Miguel Andújar, are not much better and don’t have his upside or potential. (Estevan Florial and Oswaldo Cabrera could be coming up, so that’s at least a start.)
The fact that Hicks’ horrible slump is coming at this precise moment, with so many other high-profile players in the Yankees’ lineup either slumping or injured, has only made his struggles even more glaring and subject to boos. When Giancarlo Stanton and Harrison Bader are ready to return from their respective injuries, the Yanks may be forced to drastically diminish Hicks’ playing time. He is working hard to improve and get out of his funk, but many of his issues could be psychological, too. The mind has a lot of influence over the body, and it could be affecting Hicks’ ability to breathe and perform adequately.
But even a fully functioning Hicks may have an uphill battle earning at-bats in the Yankees’ lineup. Stanton is considerably better with the bat, and Bader is significantly better with the glove.
Still, the Yankees need Hicks to step up, because the losses are quickly getting in everybody’s minds and a marked improvement by him may help spark things up with the playoffs approaching. As an organization, the Yankees need to know that the man they have under contract for the next three seasons beyond 2022 can be more than a black hole at the plate.