This is the seventeenth in a series of articles, here at Around the Foghorn, covering the 22 non-roster invitees joining the San Francisco Giants in their spring training complex this season.
The San Francisco Giants opened their spring training doors to an old friend on Monday, extending a warm welcome to Brandon Hicks, who played a significant role in their historic pursuit of a third world series title in five years, only last spring. Hicks is in camp as one of twenty-two non-roster invitees, attempting to make enough of an impression on Giants management, to be included in plans further on during the season.
Hicks is a “prospect” in the same way that Justin Maxwell is a prospect, a guy who has played in the bigs and is trying to manufacture an opportunity to extend his career. To put it succinctly, Hicks is what as known as a three-true-outcomes kind of guy. He either walks, strikes out or hits a home run.
He hit eight of them for the Giants in their electrifying start last season, helping to propel them to a 42-21 start. Without that blistering start, the Giants would never have made the playoffs, after their two-month collapse in the middle of the season.
Who could ever forget the fireworks the third Brandon lent to the show last season?
That’s why I mentioned that he would have been warmly welcomed by his former teammates.
One of The Three Brandons early last season, along with Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, Hicks became an early favorite on the 2014 Giants after winning the second base spot in spring training. This relieved the minds of many, not only because Marco Scutaro was injured, but because many feared he would not return.
Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the third round (108th overall) of the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft, Hicks debuted with the Braves in May of 2010 (16 G, 6 PA, 7 R, .000), and made the club out of spring training in 2011. It did not come easily for Hicks, who went until May 1st of 2011, five days shy of a year from the day of his MLB debut, before he got his first base hit.
Cumulatively, in his career, he has hit above .300 one time (.313 in 2007, in 37 games with the Lower A rookie level, Rome Braves), as a 21-year-old. As a major leaguer, he has never hit above .172 (2012, Oakland A’s), and he has a total of eleven major league home runs. Here is a look at his minor league stats:
June 6, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Brandon Hicks (14) throws the baseball to first base against the New York Mets during the eighth inning at AT&T Park. The Giants defeated the Mets 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Eight seasons; nine teams
701 G/2455 AB, 396 R/603H/340 RBI, 138 2B/17 3B/97 HR,
295 BB/802 SO, 69 SB/24 CS, .246/.335/.434/.769
Here is a look at Hicks’s major league totals:
Four seasons; three teams
126 G/294 AB, 43 R/45H/30 RBI, 11 2B/1 3B/11 HR,
40 BB/119 SO, 1 SB/1 CS, .153/.258/310/.568
Hicks mashed a two-run homer off Clayton Kershaw on Sunday, March 9th, powering the Giants to a 3-2 victory in a spring training game against L.A. Hicks finished the day 1-2 with a pair of walks, one of which came in the eighth inning to force in the winning run. At the time there was speculation that if Hicks could hit one off of the big K in spring training, just possibly he could knock another one out during the regular season.
On May 12th, in a 7-4 win over the Dodgers, Hicks did just that, becoming the first player to ever hit a home run off of Kershaw’s curve ball during the regular season. Matt Holliday homered off of a Kershaw curve during the 2009 playoffs, back when the Dodgers were still able to beat the Cards (The Dodgers took the NLDS, 3 games to none).
Hicks had many fine moments last season and that would certainly account for his presence in spring training camp. Otherwise, the more cynical may be wondering why Hicks is in camp at all. He can’t hit for average and the Giants know this because he was already designated for assignment last July. Is it possible that he has coaching capabilities? Is it just loyalty on the part of the Giants?
Last year at this time, the Giants had a gaping hole at second base, one now filled quite ably by Joe Panik. So Hicks is not going to win a place on the team the same way he did last season. The reality is that he’s not likely to win a place on the team at all, but that could probably be said about all of the non-roster invitees.
No, Brandon Hicks is in camp because he can hit a home run off of Kershaw. Maybe he can teach others to do so as well.
In doing this series on the prospects, I thought I would back the truck up, and list each of those prospects, with a link, so that if you missed some of the early ones, you could play catchup: Clayton Blackburn, Steve Okert, Juan Gutierrez, Adalberto Mejia, Nik Turley, Chris Stratton, Curtis Partch, Cory Gearin, Kyle Crick, Brett Bochy , Braulio Lara, Ty Blach, Mac Williamson, Justin Maxwell, Christian Arroyo and Mitch Delfino.