Editor’s note: This story went live prior to the news of Hicks’ DFA.
Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks hasn’t been an above-average offensive player since 2020, when he had a 124 wRC+ in 54 games (out of 60) and 211 plate appearances. Between injuries and the natural process of aging, he slumped to 76 and 90 wRC+ finishes in 2021 and 2022 and was, before Friday’s game, at an awful 53 in 2023.
However, while we can’t help but point out the struggles, it’s also fair to give praise when he is doing things right. In the last six games prior to the series opener against the Reds, he was showing considerable improvements.
Sure, six games is a ridiculously small sample. We are not here to declare Hicks is ‘back’ if that’s what you were looking for. He went 6-for-15 (.400), with two doubles, a home run, three walks, and a 1.233 OPS. Those numbers on their own don’t really many anything, not on their own at least.
Now, the way he has achieved those numbers is what may paint a more optimistic picture for the future. Is there such a thing for Hicks, a future with the Yankees? Nobody knows, but he is under contract. It will depend entirely on him, and continuing to play the way he has recently.
In those six games, Hicks made some really solid contact. He had some well-hit line drives, and the best thing of all is that some of them came in huge spots where the Yankees really needed him to come through.
Here is a screaming liner that turned into a double on Thursday against the Blue Jays:
Aaron Hicks had his best game of the season in last night's win over the Blue Jays. The Yankees outfielder collected a season-high three hits, including this ninth-inning double. #YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/Iz3x56TeiD— YES Network (@YESNetwork) May 19, 2023
He also hit a very big single in the same game:
Aaron Hicks comes up with the CLUTCH hit! #YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/5atvl0Fypl— YES Network (@YESNetwork) May 19, 2023
Confidence is a tricky thing. We don’t know if Hicks’ confidence and mindset has improved and that has been translated to games and, specifically, his performance; or if it’s the other way around and the solid contact is giving him the confidence he needs to succeed. The fact is that he looks more poised as of late. That’s a good thing.
He really pimped this home run, for example, hit on May 8th against the Oakland Athletics:
It’s important to point out, however, that even the 2021 and 2022 versions of Hicks were capable of getting hot for a little while. For example, he had a stretch last year from the start of June through the end of July where he hit .260/.383/.418 with a 133 wRC+. We all hoped he was back until, well, he wasn’t. That’s why confidence is important for Hicks, almost as much as health.
Is he capable of getting hot for a few weeks? Definitely. Is he capable to maintain that kind of play for multiple months? It’s unlikely, but not impossible. He was due for some positive regression, though.
If Hicks somehow returns to being a respectable player it would be huge for the Yankees because it will give them options, both for lineup constructions and for roster decisions. Having another option to play corner outfield would be extremely helpful, as well as a usable option to pinch-hit, pinch-run, or play defense off the bench.
He still has a long, long way to go. After all, he is still slashing a putrid .191/.267/.265 with a .532 OPS for the season. But he is not ancient, and he wouldn’t be the first 33-year-old to turn his career around with some persistence.
We might be weeks away from making a judgment on whether he re-ignited his career or not, though, so for now, the Yankees should enjoy the hot stretch for however long it lasts.