TAMPA — Coming off Tommy John surgery, Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks wasn't entirely himself last season. There were times where his arm couldn't make certain throws from the outfield and he was often worried about what would happen to his elbow if he swung and missed on a hearty cut.
Now, entering Hicks' sixth season in pinstripes, the outfielder feels 100 percent healthy and has already set some lofty goals for himself this year.
"I definitely see myself hitting 30-plus [home runs]," Hicks said in a Zoom call on Thursday. "That's what I want to do and that's what I believe that I can do. If I get 500 plate appearances, I'm definitely going to hit my mark with those numbers."
Over the first eight years of Hicks' big-league career, the switch-hitting outfielder has only hit more than 15 homers in a single season one time. That was in 2018, a breakout campaign with the Yankees, when he mashed 27 big flies over 137 games.
Not coincidentally, that was also the season in which Hicks set a career-high in games played. In the two seasons following his solid performance in 2018, Hicks has played in 59 and 54 games respectively.
As he mentioned, the key would be getting to 500 plate appearances, saying that's always a goal he has in mind entering a new season. A year ago, in New York's shortened campaign, Hicks ended up with only 211 across 54 games (with a mere six home runs).
"I was happy with postseason. I feel like throughout the regular season, I had a lot of opportunities to do better and I wasn't able to do that," Hicks said, evaluating his performance in 2020. "But I feel great now. So I'm pretty much just focused on this year and doing the best I can to have a great season."
Another reason Hicks' goal doesn't seem too far-fetched is his place in the Yankees' loaded lineup. Yankees manager Aaron Boone penciled Hicks in the third spot in 32 games a season ago. The 31-year-old didn't hit in another spot in the order more than eight times all season long.
With the cushion of a slugger like Luke Voit or Giancarlo Stanton looming on deck behind him, Hicks should theoretically get more pitches to hit. Granted, he also set a new career-high in walk rate (19.4 percent) last season, drawing ball four 41 times.
"I'm trying to go up there and hit," Hicks explained. "But it just seemed like last year was a lot more off-speed based. I just saw a lot more off-speed and it was kind of chase pitches, not so much pitches in the strike zone for me to kind of attack."
If Hicks can stay healthy all season long—while continuing to take advantage of the pitches to hit and laying off those out of the zone—he's got the potential to be a dangerous asset in a lineup full of stars. Only time will tell if he can eclipse his coveted 30-homer mark, though.
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