Batter’s Box: Hicksville

Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

I grew up in a town called Hicksville, a small suburb outside New York City that was originally a tract of cucumber farms up until The Great Cucumber Famine of 1887 wiped out all the crops, and left both New York and New Jersey cucumber-less for decades. Even to this day, nary a soul in the area can muster the will to speak of this dark time in Hicksville’s history, when the fields lay barren and not a single cuke poked its head through the soil for miles.

The town got its name from entrepreneur Valentine Hicks, the great great great grandfather of future Yankee legend Aaron Hicks, who went 3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI yesterday to bring his season line up to .256/.348/.477 with 10 homers and six stolen bases. A popular sleeper heading into the season, Hicks has turned it on lately, homering in three straight games and batting .308 over his last 15 games. There’s a lot to like in Hicks’ peripherals, as his contact rate (79.6%) and whiff rate (8.2%) are above average, and he’s pairing that with a career-high 40.9% hard contact rate and a launch angle that has increased from 10.5 degrees to 13.5 degrees this year. The only concern with Hicks, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career, is whether he can stay on the field. If he can, there’s a guy with 20/20 potential here who regularly bats leadoff in a loaded Yankees lineup. But as with all things, approach him with guarded optimism, because things don’t always work out for the best. Just ask the survivors of The Great Cucumber Famine.

Johan Camargo (SS/3B, Atlanta Braves): 4-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 5 RBI – He’s no Jose Bautista, but Camargo is now up to seven homers this year and appears to be making a conscious effort to hit for power, as his hard contact rate has risen to an elite 42.3% and he’s now pulling the ball in the air more than he ever has. He’s also flashing an elite 13.8% walk rate, which is nearly three times higher than last year, and his SS/3B eligibility makes him a solid add in deeper leagues.

Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals): 4-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI – Hey Turner, could you lend your boy Bryce Harper a couple of those extra hits? Turner still hits more than half his batted balls on the ground, which isn’t the worst thing in the world when you have his speed, but it would be nice to see him lift the ball more, especially now that he’s gotten his hard contact rate up to a serviceable 33.6%. He’s up to eight homers on the season regardless, and is pacing towards a 15 HR/40 SB campaign, which is pretty much what you hoped for if you drafted him.

Tucker Barnhart (C, Cincinnati Reds):  3-3, 2 R, 2B, RBI, BB – Barnhart has been steady, if unspectacular, this season, slashing .267/.350/.386 with four homers. However, in the current catcher landscape, they should probably commission a platinum statue of him in Cincinnati for posting a line like that.

Adam Duvall (OF, Cincinnati Reds): 3-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB – Though he’s batting .196 on the season, most of Duvall’s peripherals are in line with his career averages, so the .209 BABIP is likely the main culprit in his horrible production to this point. It might not be a bad idea to stash him if you need power, as a hot streak is likely coming to correct the wrongs that have befallen him so far.

Logan Forsythe (2B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers): 3-4, 2 2B, BB – I think a film about Logan Forsythe would have a lot of parallels with the Wolverine movie Logan, as they’d both follow the journey of an aging man who is slowly losing his ability to do the things he used to excel at. Also, they used Forsythe’s DNA to create a 12-year-old female clone of him that has paring knives growing out of her feet. The similarities are honestly uncanny. Anyway, with Max Muncy getting a start at second base in the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader, Forsythe is going to have to continue to produce like this to retain semi-regular at-bats going forward.

Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves):  3-4, 3 R, 2 2B, 3 RBI, BB – Inciarte is still struggling to get things going in the batting average department, as this performance pulled his average up to just .252. Still, the counting stats are there, and he makes so much contact that it’s only a matter of time before the hits start falling.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (2B/3B, Texas Rangers): 3-3, R, 2 2B, RBI, BB – A solid night for Kiner-Falefa, whose last name makes me hungry every time I type it. If him, Jake Burger, and Johnny Burrito ever find themselves on the same team I’m going to have a really tough time concentrating. Kiner-Falefa got the start at third base in this game, and there’s been talk of him getting some reps at catcher now that Elvis Andrus is back, which could make him an intriguing bench option in most leagues if he gains eligibility there.

Leonys Martin (OF, Detroit Tigers): 3-3, R, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB – Martin is now hitting .293 over his last 15 games. Perhaps more encouraging are the four stolen bases over that timeframe, considering he had been dealing with hamstring issues for over a month. The 48.8% flyball rate scares me a bit for a guy who has never had incredible power, but his 38.2% hard contact rate is nearly ten percentage points higher than his previous career-high, and justifies the increased launch angle he’s flaunting. I don’t see a huge difference between him and Kevin Pillar rest-of-season.

Billy Hamilton (OF, Cincinnati Reds): 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB – Yes, that’s right, Air Bud homered in last night’s game, which just goes to show you that anything truly is possible. I remember the days when Hamilton was just a golden retriever with a dream, and now look at him. He’s walking a career-high 11.1% of the time this year, which is really encouraging considering how much he struggles to get on base and use his speed. However, his strikeout rate has also jumped up to an unusable 29.5%, contributing to his .203 average despite a .289 BABIP.

Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds): 1-3, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB – This was Votto’s first home run in over a month, though on the bright side he is hitting  .318 over his last 30 games thanks to an absolutely insane 34.3% line drive rate and career-high 40% hard contact rate. His flyball rate is at a career-low, but his exit velocity and launch angle are in line with his career norms, so I’d expect the power to return real soon.

Eduardo Escobar (SS/3B, Minnesota Twins): 1-4, R, 2B, 3 RBI – What would you do-ooh-ooh, for an Escobar? No seriously, how much would you debase yourself in order to get this guy on your roster? He’s hitting .336 with five homers over the past month, and while his .262 xAVG and .342 xBACON indicate he’s getting a bit lucky in the batting average department, his 12.7 xHR support his power outburst this season. So I ask again, what would you do for an Escobar? Would you drink a glass of your own spit?

Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers): 2-3, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB – Keep on crushing, you brace-toothed wonder. Aguilar has now hit 12 homers over his last 30 games while maintaining a respectable .270 average over that span. The Brewers have moved Eric Thames into the outfield in recent games, meaning Aguilar should get a decent number of starts going forward, though Ryan Braun is still in the picture.

Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies): 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – Arenado’s power output has been a bit subdued this season, as this was just his 14th home run of the year. His strikeout rate is at a career-high 18.2%, but his walk rate has also ballooned to 13.2%, and you can’t complain about a .311/.399/.559. I mean you can, but you shouldn’t.

Alen Hanson (2B/OF, San Francisco Giants): 3-4, R, 2 2B, RBI – Oh hey, one hit for every “m” in “Mmmbop.” Way to honor your humble beginnings, Hanson. Alen played shortstop in this game with Brandon Crawford on the paternity list, but playing time is still an issue for Hanson long-term considering how often the Giant are deploying Pablo Sandoval at third base.

Matt Carpenter (1B/2B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals): 2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – I really need Carpenter to chill out, because if he outperforms Max Muncy this year I won’t get to name Dave Cherman’s 17th-born child “Boaty McBoatface.” Carpenter is now up to nine homers over the past month with a .315 average over that span.

Gorkys Hernandez (OF, San Francisco Giants): 3-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI – The wizard who turned Gorkys from a puppet into a real boy must be very pleased right now. Hernandez is having himself quite a year, slashing .286/.339/.457 with eight homers and four steals in just 62 games. With a 29.5% strikeout rate and .375 BABIP though, don’t expect this to last long.

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer and content manager with Pitcher List, and co-host of the On the Barrel podcast. He enjoys long walks on the beach, quiet dinners by candlelight, and essentially any other activity that will distract him from the perpetual torture of being a New York Mets fan. He's written for Fangraphs Community Research and created Youtube videos about fantasy baseball under the moniker "Jonny Baseball."

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Comments


Dave Cherman

Boaty McBoatface? I’m gonna be a lot nicer and name your child Derek Jeter Metzelaar. So that you have to say “I love you, Derek Jeter” for the entirety of that child’s life.

Jonathan Metzelaar

Sure, but Teoscar has three stolen bases in 123 major league games so far. Until he starts actually running I think Hicks is a much safer bet for double-digit steals.

Frankie

Leonis Martin wasn’t in the top 150 last week. Do you think he should be considered top 100-120 if/when the speed returns? Pillar at #144 last week so I probably just answered my own question.

Jonathan Metzelaar

The speed upside is certainly higher for Martin, the question is whether he’ll start running more. The fact that he’s been active on the basepaths after returning from the DL is encouraging. I could see him cracking the top 120, and I don’t think 15 HR/20 SB by season’s end with a .260 average is out of the question, and that’s useful in all formats.

Jack

That Hicksville story is great, and thanks to the internet I know it’s true (the Aaron Hicks part, however, is dubious). I’m from Northport myself, home of Ricky Kasso, which is less of a distinction.

Jesus Aguilar. Top 100 guy ROS or what? I can’t see it any other way, and in fact he looks like top 75 to me. Here’s how: Thames goes to the Yanks for a bag of balls and then the 1B job is Aguilar’s. Bam.

Stupid Selig could have just left the Brewers in the AL and all of this would have been avoided.

Jonathan Metzelaar

A more likely scenario: Ryan Braun remembers he’s Ryan Braun and immediately collapses into a pile of bones, opening up full-time at-bats for both guys.

I really like Aguilar. He’s 49th among hitters on ESPN’s Player Rater this year even with the inconsistent at-bats. I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he managed to stay within the top-75 hitters all year.

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