If you read my blog, you know that I am the most ardent and strident Aaron Hicks supporter there is. I have resisted the temptation to call for his demotion and I have scoured his stats and performances to find any glimmer of improvement or justification for his continued roster spot and lineup spot. Even I have given up. I still think Hicks will be a great player. I think he could even be a borderline All-Star at his peak. He's not an MLB hitter right now. His at-bats have been terrible. He seems to have a good enough eye, but he's way too passive on balls in the strike zone and he's making really poor contact when he does swing.
I'm the last guy to psychoanalyze a player from my couch, but he looks shook up as well. I think taking some pressure off of him is the right move. He's a great centerfielder, and while he's taking some odd routes, he makes up for it with crazy closing speed. He's a smart baserunner too. He'll go down to Rochester and get some hits and hopefully feel better about his performance because hitting is really the only thing missing right now. Hitting is just a huge part, so that kind of sucks. He's a good player, so I expect he'll do well in AAA. I think he'll be back in center field for the Twins come September. This isn't a Joe Benson situation where he'll never be heard from again.
Oswaldo Arcia will replace Hicks in the lineup, play left field, and Clete Thomas will slide over to center. Arcia crushed AAA pitching just like he always has. If he was missing any confidence at the All-Star break, I imagine it has returned. Arcia was taking horrible swings before his demotion, pulling his head up and swinging from his shoes. Hopefully, he will return with a slightly controlled approach, but also with the aggressiveness that makes him a dangerous hitter. I think he's here for good, meaning for the next 6-7 seasons. You can argue that he's already the Twins' second best hitter (Joe Mauer is number one, in case you need the obvious stated for you).
Scott Diamond was mercifully sent to AAA as well. Diamond certainly doesn't look much like the Scott Diamond who dazzled Twins fans last season. Of course, last season wasn't a complete success. His overall 2012 numbers were great, but his second half was much worse than the first. I documented this here, along with a cool picture I drew of him. Even so, if he could have maintained that second half performance, he wouldn't be heading back to Rochester. He doesn't strike anyone out and he isn't the elite command pitcher he was last year. Therefore, a lot of balls are hit, many are hit hard, and many hard hits fall for hits and then runs. It's a bad formula. It's entirely possible that Diamond goes the way of Carlos Silva, Joe Mays, Nick Blackburn and all the other low K, easy-to-hit Twins pitchers before him. At least the Twins didn't lock him up long-term.
In the speculation portion of this transaction, it would seem that Andrew Albers almost has to be heading to Minnesota. He leads the International League in strikeouts, and he's 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 132.1 innings with Rochester. What more can he really do to earn a promotion?
Albers is a lefty. He certainly wasn't a prospect heading into the season. He's 26-years-old and a career Minor Leaguer. However, he's been consistently productive in the Minors. He'll consistently recorded 7-8 strikeouts per nine innings and posted low walk totals. He would join Chris Colabello and Caleb Thielbar as the third Independent League player to make their MLB debut with the Twins this season.
He was originally drafted out of high school by the Brewers back in 2004. He went to the University of Kentucky and was then drafted in the 10th round by the Padres in 2008. He threw 7 innings of rookie ball in 2008 and then didn't pitch professionally again until 2011. Twins' prospect guru Seth Stohs just tweeted this part of Albers' story:
Before 2011, Albers drove from Saskatchewan to AZ to FM. Asked for a tryout & said if the Twins liked him, they could reimburse his travel.That's a fun story. Since joining the organization in 2011, he's made a pretty fast climb to AAA. He's pretty much dominated with Rochester and like Colabello, he deserves the opportunity to prove whether or not he can remain productive as he moves to the highest level. Considering the success that Sam Deduno has had this season, it isn't crazy to think that Albers can get by with his profile and stuff. And, it would be a very fun and endearing story.
— Seth Stohs (@SethTweets) August 1, 2013
I hope it is Albers who gets the call. This season is clearly another lost one, and having some interesting players on the roster is the only real reason to watch. Arcia qualifies; Albers would too. Hicks is interesting and I hate that he has to be sent down, but it's time to let him have some success. Some will say that these moves came too late, but I like to give players the opportunity to adjust while playing in the Majors. Ultimately, each of these players will have to prove themselves against MLB competition, and they can't do that in AAA. In a perfect world, Hicks and Diamond do exactly what Arcia and Albers have done to merit this transaction. That would be nice.