Aaron Hicks for some reason is one of Joe Girardi’s favorite players. Why? Because of his potential to be a “5 tool player” (according to the Yankees). Hicks is really strong on one side of the ball, the defensive side. He has a lot of range, evident by the ability to play all three OF positions, and a rocket of an arm.
That throw is absurd and close to the physical limitations for a human being, which I think is 108 MPH). Some context: the fastest pitch ever is by Aroldis Chapman at 105 MPH, yes, Hicks crow hopped and had all his momentum going forward but that shouldn’t diminish the feat.
So Hicks is great defensively and has a rocket of an arm, what else does he have going for him? He’s somewhat fast, but can’t ever get a good jump on the bases. He was 3/7 in stolen base attempts but is great in CF so he is an enigma in that regard.
Now what can the Yankees do with Hicks?
Move him to the bullpen. There is some precedent here but not a ton. Most guys move to the bullpen in the minors and when they are early in their career. Let’s look at some semi-recent cases:
Kenley Jansen is the poster boy for this. He was a catcher with a rocket of an arm but he couldn’t hit. He learned how to throw a cutter and because of his arm strength became extremely effective. He’s been a staple of the Dodgers bullpen for the last 4 years and is a top 3 closer in the league.
Sean Doolittle: First baseman usually don’t have the strongest arms but Doolittle does. Easily reaching the mid-90’s he actually had some experience pitching in College, Hicks to my knowledge doesn’t. Doolittle was hurt last year but the year before was a top 10 closer in all of baseball.
Dariel Alvarez: The Yankees just need to look in their own division to find a perfect comparable. The Orioles have realized that this guy can’t hit but has a strong arm, exactly like hicks. Alvarez is also 28 years old (Hicks is 27) and can dial it up to 97MPH, something I would expect Hicks to also be able to get to. Velocity is the hot commodity in baseball right now, and being able to hit 95 or 96 on the gun is a big advantage for teams, the Orioles have realized this, let’s see if the Yankees do.
Matt Bush: Matt Bush has had a really long journey and probably isn’t the best comp for Hicks. The point I want to make with Bush is that it is never too late if you have the velocity. Bush came into the Texas camp last year and proved that he still had “it”. He worked his way through the minors and was an integral part of the Texas bullpen.
Hicks, with a lot of work, could convert and be another piece of a strong bullpen. He has the arm strength and would only be pitching 1 to MAYBE 2 innings at a time. Right now Tyler Clippard is the 7th inning guy and while I like Clippard he doesn’t have the Velocity to scare hitters, he is more like an end of career Trevor Hoffman-lite. I don’t think converting Hicks to the bullpen is going to make or break the season, but I do think it COULD make the team better. He’s not helping the team by playing RF and batting .220 with no pop, so why not convert him to a pitcher?