Kids, this right here is how you win a position battle: Aaron Hicks homered three times in the Twins' split-squad win over the Phillies on Thursday, going 4-for-5 and driving in six of his team's 10 runs.
There's a fight underway to claim the starting center field gig in Minnesota, and the 23-year-old Hicks seems to be well ahead on points. He's batting .407 so far this spring with four homers, nine runs scored, 12 RBIs and one steal.
[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]
Hicks' first homer on Thursday was an opposite-field shot off Cliff Lee (possibly wind-aided, but hit well), and his second was an absolute no-doubter off Jeremy Horst leading off the fifth. His third bomb was a sky-high blast to right field (again, might have been assisted by a friendly breeze).
Despite the early Grapefruit numbers, you shouldn't actually expect power to be Hicks' primary fantasy skill when he arrives in the big leagues. He hit just 13 home runs in 129 games at Double-A last season, though he added 11 triples and 21 doubles. Hicks swiped 32 bags in 43 attempts last season, plus he reached base at a great clip (.384), leading the Eastern League in walks with 79. He's drawn over 75 free passes in three straight minor league seasons, so he's clearly not some hacker.
If he earns the center field job for Minnesota this year, he'll do it without ever having visited Triple-A. So that's plenty impressive. The key to his fantasy value in the season ahead is nabbing the lead-off spot in the Twins' order, thus serving as a table-setter for Mauer, Willingham and Morneau. If he snags that role, then he'll clearly have a chance to be a mixed league asset.
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