Aaron Hicks has had a solid start so far for the Yankees. The outfielder is tied for the fourth-highest wRC + on the team with a mark of 119. The way he has gotten there, however, stands out from that of his teammates. Thus far, Hicks has put up a curious slash line of .243 / .400 / .286, with just one extra-base hit while also walking over 20 percent of the time.
Aaron Hicks ’20.9 percent walk rate is good for second best in the Majors, sitting behind only Max Muncy, and ahead of names like Juan Soto, Mike Trout, and Yordan Alvarez. Not the worst company. But Hicks has not hit for any power at all, outside of his single home run on the year (something everyone else on that list is known for). His slugging percentage is over 100 points lower than his OBP as a result.
This kind of combination is odd, in a logical sense. Being a power threat is something that often leads to walks; pitcher doesn’t want to throw as many hittable pitches, hitter sees more balls as a result. It seems simple enough, but that’s not what is happening with Hicks so far.
These are the top 10 players in walk rate so far in 2022, along with their ISO mark. The second furthest point to the right, and the lowest point on the chart, is where Aaron Hicks sits. Thus far, he’s been an outlier. Regardless, Hicks has reached base frequently enough to be healthily above average offensively on the season. This isn’t the only strange thing about his performance though, as Hicks is also distancing himself from his teammates in interesting ways.
It’s been fairly well-documented that many of Hicks’ Yankee teammates have made changes in the polar opposite direction. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, and Gleyber Torres, just to name a few, are all walking less than ever, and swinging more than they have in the past. All the cool kids are doing it, but not Hicks.
In fact, Hicks is the only regular lineup outside of Anthony Rizzo (who has basically been in line with his career marks) who has gone in this direction, walking more and swinging less. The Yankee outfielder is now drawing bases on balls more than he ever has in his career, and swinging overall at his lowest rate ever. This, in part, could be due to the way that Hicks has been hitting the ball. An aggressive mentality is one that makes sense for a lot of the Yankees’ big sluggers; when you hit the ball really hard, doing that as often as possible is a good thing. Hicks, unlike his big counterparts in the outfield, has not been hitting the ball with such authority.
In 2022, Hicks has not hit the ball nearly as hard or with as high quality as he has in the past, and especially in comparison to when he was at his best.
Unlike Judge or Stanton, if this decrease in quality contact continues for Hicks to some extent, better selectivity and willingness to take a base is something that could work to the switch-hitter’s benefit. This is not set in stone, as Hicks has been able to hit the ball hard in the past, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he rediscovered some of that skill. But his ability to make up for his current power deficit, temporary or not, is an encouraging thing to see out of him.
I’d bet that Hicks will add to his extra-base hit total of one during the rest of the season, and that his power and patience numbers will balance out a bit. But, in a unique way, Aaron Hicks is making it work as it is. If this selectivity at the plate is an improved skill on top of where it already was, and the power comes around even a little, Hicks could actually be poised for a very fine season. Even without that, Hicks is figuring out a way to help this lineup, and doing it in a way that no one else is.