It’s tough to get excited about a career .153 hitter, but Brandon Hicks could be an important backup for the Dodgers in 2016.
The Dodgers unceremoniously signed Brandon Hicks to a minor league contract earlier in February. Given the way the Dodgers value versatility and their almost lack of infield depth, Hicks could be a valuable player in 2016.
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I decided to do my due diligence and research Hicks’ defensive abilities before trying to claim what positions he plays. Alex Guerrero is listed as a left fielder and third baseman on Baseball Reference, and I wouldn’t call him either of those. It also pleases me that Guerrero’s first position on BBREF is “pinch hitter”.
Anyways, Hicks is listed as a second baseman, shortstop and third baseman. He’s never played enough in a season to have any sort of reliable sample size, so I tried researching what other writers have said about his defense. The google search for “Brandon Hicks defense” displays two results before the baseball player. The first, a .PDF for the court ruling of Brandon Hicks vs the State of Indiana, a court case about a drug dealer named Brandon Hicks that shot himself in the leg in a bar fight after shooting someone else. The second result is the pro football reference page of Brandon Hicks, a defensive tackle that played in four games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2003. He had one tackle and one assisted tackle. Apparently there’s something about Indiana and the name Brandon Hicks.
After that, it gets to the relevant Brandon Hicks. Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles wrote about Hicks when the Giants signed him to a minor league deal last January.
"Hicks is a solid defensive middle infielder with legitimate, major league power. Do you know how marketable that should make him? Do you know how bad he has to be at other parts of the game to make him a minor league free agent? Pretty bad. And those other parts of the game we’re talking about are defined as “making contact” and “making any kind of contact at all.” Hicks swings and misses with the best of them, but he also swings and misses with the worst of them. It’s why he signed a minor league deal instead of a nine-figure deal."
Brisbee, as usual, is not wrong. Hicks has power, as eight of his 33 hits in 2014 left the yard. Unfortunately, Hicks’ 33 hits came over 242 plate appearances, and he also struck out 77 times. 15 of his 33 hits went for extra bases, but his .153/.258/.310 career triple slash would only be acceptable for a pitcher.
Hicks hasn’t played a lot in his major league career, with only 737 1/3 defensive innings over his four year career. 540 of those innings came at second base, which is a position the Dodgers have more than enough at right now. The important thing is his 166 career innings at shortstop. He hasn’t played the position since 2012, but the Dodgers are currently counting on the top prospect in all of baseball, Corey Seager, to be their everyday shortstop. As it sits right now, Enrique Hernandez is probably the backup shortstop. He’s also the backup second baseman, backup third baseman, backup center fielder and third string catcher. There’s also still questions about whether Hernandez can hit righties well enough to be in the lineup every day.
If Seager gets hurt or struggles, the Dodgers are pretty much screwed. Seager and Justin Turner should be able to form a great left side of the infield, but the Dodgers don’t have a real backup at either shortstop or third. Between Hernandez, Howie Kendrick and Chase Utley, the Dodgers have three second basemen, but they also serve as the only infield depth on the Dodgers major league roster (ignoring Guerrero).
All three of those players and Austin Barnes would likely get backup opportunities before Hicks, but none of them have ever shown the ability to play third base regularly. It was one of the many reasons I was very much in favor of bringing back Juan Uribe. Hicks playing everyday would likely signal horrible times at Chavez Ravine, but at least he can probably handle the positions defensively and provide an occasional longball.
Hicks was absolutely a guy worth taking a flier on and if he can develop better contact skills, he could become a decent regular. He’s 30, so that seems unlikely, but Hicks could have an impact in LA if things go wrong. He’s buried on the depth chart at second base, but could add some value at short or third.