When the Yankees acquired Aaron Hicks over the winter for the low price of John Ryan Murphy, many expected him to get a fair amount of playing time in 2016. At 26 years old and with something to prove as a former top prospect, he was a breath of fresh air to an outfield that was starting to get pretty stale. Carlos Beltran turns 39 years old today and would be a prime DH candidate if Alex Rodriguez wasn't already staking that claim. Meanwhile, former speedsters Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are no longer a major threat on the basepaths and haven't been quite as defensively adept as they were in their twenties.
Throw in the fact that all three incumbent outfielders are no strangers to the DL, and it's easy to see why the Yankees wanted a potentially high quality outfielder as an insurance plan. In the season's early going, Joe Girardi certainly hasn't shied away from using Hicks. He has appeared in 12 of 15 games through Friday, starting seven of them.
Hicks' relatively high number of games though is more a byproduct of the Yankees facing more lefties than normal early on. If they hadn't faced a slightly inordinate number of southpaws, he wouldn't have as many appearances. His performance to this point could best be described as shaky, but the case can be made that he should get even more playing time as part of a four-man rotation in the outfield, even against righties.
With just one hit in his first 20 at bats of the season, Hicks just can't seem to get it going with the bat. Truth is, his BABIP and line drive rate are sitting at an almost impossibly low .105 and 5.3%, respectively. That's unlikely to continue, especially considering that per FanGraphs, he's making hard contact 26.3% of the time. That's 1% higher than his hard contact rate last year when he was a league average offensive contributor. In due time, the hits will start coming for Hicks.
As a fielder, his ability to play all three outfield positions already makes him a valuable asset. While advanced defensive metrics haven't been flattering to him in his young career, few would argue that he's been the best defensive outfielder on the Yankees thus far. His record-breaking throw from left field on Wednesday is becoming the stuff of legend and his Spider-Man catch the very next night has gotten fans buzzing about his fielding prowess. Hopefully, it also helps energize his fellow teammates and instills confidence in the pitching staff when he's out in the field.
No matter where Hicks plays in the outfield at this point, he's likely a defensive upgrade over the man he's replacing. On top of that, if Girardi pencils him in the lineup just a little more frequently than he's currently doing, he would basically be splitting the outfield innings evenly among the four players at his disposal. That would result in each player getting the built-in rest they could use throughout a long season which may prevent major injuries and an extended absence by a key member of the lineup. Let's just hope the shoulder he banged up on Friday is nothing serious, that would ruin this plan before it even starts.