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Yankees' Aaron Hicks Finishes Strong in Winter Ball After Slow Start

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks is done playing winter ball this offseason with Leones del Escogido, making up for a slow start with a strong finish.
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Aaron Hicks' participation in the Dominican Winter League has come to an end. 

After playing 12 games with the Leones del Escogido, Hicks informed the club on Friday that he's headed back to the United States.

Hicks finished his two-week stint in winter ball hitting .265 (13-for-49) with one home run, nine RBI, five runs scored, four walks, two stolen bases, 10 strikeouts and a .729 OPS.

Those numbers might seem like they're nothing special—especially considering the competition in the Dominican Winter League—but Hicks actually finished quite strong. Just a few games before his final appearance, the outfielder had a batting average of .206. He proceeded to record six hits in his next two games played, raising his average up to .289.

Numbers aside, this was a huge step in the right direction for Hicks. Remember, the oft-injured outfielder hadn't played in a game since May just before he landed on the injured list with a torn sheath in his left wrist. Hicks underwent season-ending surgery shortly thereafter. 

Playing only 12 games is too small of a sample size to really break down these winter ball numbers. Bottom line is Hicks was able to play some defense, face live pitching and get back into the swing of things. No matter what the results are, this experience was about the reps.

As of now, Hicks sits atop New York's depth chart in center field, the likeliest candidate to start in center on Opening Day next March. There's still a chance the Yankees could upgrade at the position when MLB's lockout ends. After all, general manager Brian Cashman hinted at adding a center fielder earlier in the offseason.

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Top options like Starling Marte are no longer available, but New York could test the trade market or sign a player like Seiya Suzuki, who is expected to earn a substantial contract when he signs with a big-league club, coming over from Japan. 

READ: Yankees 'Aggressive' in Pursuit of Japanese Slugger Seiya Suzuki

It remains to be seen how comfortable the Yankees are with Hicks heading into the 2022 regular season. Even if he's healthy, it's hard to ignore his injury history and his dip in production these last few years. The 32-year-old has played in more than 100 games in only two of his six seasons in pinstripes. This past season, Hicks hit .194 (21-for-108), appearing in just 32 games.

Hicks has five more years remaining on his seven-year deal with the Yankees, a contract worth $70 million. 

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