Detroit Tigers: Expect to See More of Catcher John Hicks
The Detroit Tigers have a solid trio of catchers that includes James McCann, Alex Avila, and John Hicks. While McCann and Avila have spots on the 25-man roster, Hicks will show up from time to time.
The third Detroit Tigers catcher showed that he is worth watching today against the New York Mets.
Hicks performed well behind the dish. Even though he has yet to get his first Spring Training hit, he did show off his power at the plate.
Quietly Added to Team in 2016
John Hicks was snapped up by the Tigers in April of 2016. Prior to playing with the Tigers, he was a catcher for the Minnesota Twins and the Seattle Mariners. The Twins put him on waivers, that allowed the Tigers to snap him up. Hicks was immediately assigned to the Erie Seawolves where he played in 14 games before he was moved up to the Toledo Mud Hens.
In Erie, Hicks batted a slash of .388/.426/.510 with an OPS of .936 in 14 games and 49 at-bats. His numbers in Toledo were impressive, too. There, he batted a slash of .303/.356/.485 with an OPS of .842. He hit 8 home runs in Toledo. Find the rest of his MiLB stats here.
Defensively, he showed real skill in Toledo. According to an article by Josh Jackson with MiLB, Hicks threw out 24 of 61 base stealers. His fielding percentage was .992. Because of his strong defensive and offensive statistics, he was named an All-Star in the Tigers Organization.
Good Single Appearance in September
Hicks did get a call up in September, where he had two at-bats in one game with the Tigers. He hit a double and scored a run.
Now that Hicks is getting a full season with the Tigers organization, he is showing off what he’s got in Spring Training. Hicks has yet to record a hit in his three at-bats in Spring Training, but he has been able to show off his power at the plate. In the game against the Mets on Sunday, Hicks had a powerful golden rope to right field where Michael Conforto made a highlight-reel lucky catch over his shoulder. Despite the quick out, Hicks showed what he can do with his quick hands and quiet power at the plate.
Dedicated to Improvement
In an article by Jeff Seidel with the Detroit Free Press, Hicks shared how he has been working on his swing. He said:
"“I’ve made a lot of adjustments to my swing. I’m getting more out of my legs. I’m trying to create a coil with my lower half. When I went to the ball, there was an explosion to it. I worked a lot on that last off-season and got a little more power.”"
Behind the dish, he showed a full range of skills. He used his body to stop wild pitches and he called a good game. While he did not have an opportunity to stop anyone at second, he clearly looks like he has the strength to handle any runners who dare take him on.
Expect to See Him in 2017
With injury-prone Alex Avila serving as the backup catcher to James McCann, Hicks will be a good third catcher waiting for opportunities in Toledo. It is clear that Hicks can handle the position and the demands of professional baseball. But, he does have one thing going against him: he’s a right-handed hitter. If he could bat left, the Tigers might not have reached out to Alex Avila. Unlike Avila and McCann, Hicks does hit well against both right- and left-handed pitchers.
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But, unlike Avila and McCann, Hicks does hit well against both right- and left-handed pitchers. In 2016, Hicks batted .350 against left-handed pitchers and .363 against right-handed pitchers. McCann is much better against left-handed pitchers and Avila hits better against right-handed pitchers. When Hicks gets the opportunity to play in Detroit, it will be interesting to see if his consistency against both types of pitchers continues. If it does, he could be a serious consideration for Brad Ausmus and Al Avila.
In his short time in the Detroit Tigers organization, Hicks has had his best numbers. This could be due to the relationship that he has with Justin Verlander and his family. Hicks and Verlander attended the same high school in Goochland, Virginia.
Next: Tigers are Getting Warmed Up
After watching Hicks in today’s game against the Mets, it is clear that he has a strong skillset to bring to the organization. The quiet signing in 2016 could show good things in 2017. I’m looking forward to more good things from John Hicks.