BA’s Dave Perkin, our scout for Prospects Plus, took in SoCal prep two-way star Aaron Hicks last Thursday, and after seeing him for several outings previously, he sees improvement for the Long Beach Wilson High prospect.
Aaron Hicks is an OK player . . . if you like talent.
Hicks, who is a safe bet to be a first round selection in the June draft, started Thursday for top-ranked Long Beach Wilson High, and pitched five innings, striking out nine and allowing one run on three hits. His four-seam fastball sat in the 93-95 mph range, peaking at 96. A righthander, Hicks possesses a plus 82-84 curve, which is a nasty 11-to-5 multi-plane monster. He compounds a hitter’s misery with a hard cutter and a change which shows sharp late arm side movement.
In the fifth inning, El Dorado third baseman Ryan Remlinger engaged Hicks in an epic at bat. Hicks fired every pitch in his arsenal, and Remlinger kept fouling them off. Remlinger then hit a 3-2 pitch 400 feet, foul by a sliver. After the game, I asked Hicks what he was thinking at the time. "I just wanted to strike him out," said Hicks. He then did so with a 96 mph fastball.
To insure that the approximately 25 scouts in attendance got an eyeful, the switch-hitting Hicks had a big day at bat as well. In his first at-bat, Hicks ripped a single to right, then stole second, stole third and scored on Zack Wilson’s single. On his second trip to the plate, Hicks smacked a double off the base of the center-field fence, advanced to third on a short fly to right, but was stranded.
In his third plate appearance, Hicks doubled to the fence in left center. The El Dorado coaching staff decided that discretion is the better part of valor and walked Hicks intentionally in his fourth time up.
"Geez", remarked one spectator, "this is Little League for him".
The performance reestablished what many scouts have long contended: Hicks is the finest prep outfielder/pitcher to come out of the greater Los Angeles area since Daryl Strawberry in the early 1980s. He is that rare player with five potential above-average tools, and Hicks has the ability to be a major league all-star as an outfielder or a pitcher.
Hicks still has a few mechanical glitches. On the mound, his far right (toward third base) rubber position is causing him to throw across his body on many pitches. Also, Hicks often loses his balance at his delivery finish by landing on a stiff front leg and falling off to his left, causing several pitches to sail. As with many high school pitching prospects, Hicks has inconsistent command and his pitch counts are too high.
At bat, Hicks has lowered his hands into a more workable pre-swing position, but he still has a tendency to pull his front side and head off the ball and overstride.
None of these flaws are fatal and should be easily corrected when Hicks reaches pro ball. Opinions vary, but the consensus among scouts is that the club which signs Hicks will start him in pro ball as an outfielder. If he doesn’t hit after three or so years in the minors, then Hicks should comfortably transition to the bump –most likely as a set-up man or closer. However, Hicks ‘great arm, 6.6 speed and vastly improved bat indicate that his days as a hurler will probably end when he signs his first pro contract.