The Minnesota Twins trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere over the past week have opened up the door in center field in Minnesota to a slew of young players to compete for the now-available playing time.
The top center fielder in the Twins system is undoubtedly Aaron Hicks, a 2008 first-round pick (14th overall) who has not developed into the five-tool player that some thought he would become, but outside of power, has developed all the tools needed to be a big-league center fielder.
According to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minnesota Star Tribune, Hicks will get a chance to win the Twins center field job this spring, but he appears to be a long shot out of spring training, as he has yet to play a game in Triple-A and has had issues adjusting to new levels during his minor league career.
But most importantly, Hicks is considered to be a significant part of the Twins rebuilding process, and to rush him to the majors, and risk stunting his development, and to start his service clock unnecessarily early would be a short-sighted move aimed at promoting false excitement at the major league level.
Hicks profiles as a great center fielder and has the speed and plate discipline to be a strong leadoff hitter, a rare commodity in the game of baseball. In 2012, he added some power to his game, reaching double-digits in doubles, triples, and home runs, but his game remains centered around speed and defense.
Hicks should start the season in Triple-A. The Twins don't have many great in-house options for 2013 in center field, with fourth outfielder Darin Mastroianni leading the way as the likely front-runner, but rushing Hicks to the majors out of need would be short-sighted and foolish.
If he handles Triple-A well, there's no reason to believe that Hicks can't play his way to the majors, but with the Twins window to compete likely coming in 2014-2015, there's also little reason to rush him at the start of this season. Ideally, Hicks will succeed in Triple-A, and can be called up in mid-summer with enough time to get his feet wet and gain some major league experience, setting him up for a strong 2014 season.