The Minnesota Twins don't have a lot to look forward to in 2013. Their pitching rotation, one of the worst in baseball a year ago, does not seem to have improved. Their lineup could have a few rays of hope, but nothing screams World Series as of Opening Day.
Despite few things for Twins fans to become excited about, though, there is a top prospect that has made his way to the major leagues and claimed a starting spot.
That would be Aaron Hicks.
By now, you've probably heard of Hicks' path to the major leagues. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2008 MLB draft and struggled in the lower levels of the minor leagues. However, last season, Hicks put his raw, five-tool capabilities together and had an impressive season at Double-A New Britain.
In 129 games for the Rock Cats, Hicks put up a line of .286/.384/.460 with 13 home runs and 61 runs batted in. He was terrific on the basepaths as well, stealing 32 bases in 43 attempts.
Combined with a terrific spring training, Hicks wrestled the job away from Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson to become the club's everyday center fielder.
Hicks made his major league debut on Monday against the Detroit Tigers and looked like a rookie in his first major league game. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against one of the best teams in the American League rolling out the best pitcher in baseball, Justin Verlander.
Even with the lackluster debut, Hicks can still have a major impact on the Twins lineup.
Unfortunately, Hicks won't bring up comparisons to Mike Trout or Bryce Harper in his rookie season, but he can still fill the void left at the top of the order when the Twins traded Denard Span to the Washington Nationals.
Hicks has a career .379 on-base percentage in five minor league seasons, and his patience is something that the Twins would love to see in order to set up for Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham.
The downside is that Hicks can be too patient. His last three seasons at various minor league levels each featured him striking out over 100 times, with a career-high 116 in 2012. Aggressiveness will help him out here, but he has to have time to learn that trait to be effective.
Outside of that, Hicks has the power and overall plate instincts to put up decent numbers as a rookie. His 13 home runs in 2012 were a career high, and he's a pro at finding his way around the bases, as his 100 runs last year indicate.
Hicks will be a part of an improved offense from a season ago and will benefit from more powerful bats being added to the bottom half of the lineup on an everyday basis.
With that, it's not crazy to think that Hicks can score 90-100 runs while hitting in the .260-.270 range. Mix in 10-15 home runs with 20 stolen bases, and he'll have a solid foundation to build on to become the next great center fielder for the Twins.
Monday was a letdown for Hicks and Twins fans, but once he gets some time at the major league level, he will be one of the most exciting Twins to watch for a long time.
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