It would be really easy to write this off as the obvious move to make. In a lot of circles right now, it's Eddie Rosario that has better long-term prospects with the Twins than Aaron Hicks. Of course it's not quite that simple.
While Hicks performed well against left-handed pitching in 2014 (.279/.410/.382), his .201/.293/.313 triple slash in 150 games with the Twins over the last two years is what most of us remember. For some folks that might be enough to not even give him the once-over, instead moving along to Rosario, whose most attractive quality might be that he's the most recent shiny new prospect to debut for a franchise struggling to pull out of a nose dive.
Rosario, at 23, was getting his first taste of baseball above Double-A this year - where he had hit a mediocre .260/.302/.403 in 149 games. He's had more plate appearances at that level than Hicks has had with the Twins. But he is, undoubtedly, a talented player. Rosario raked in the Arizona Fall League and left his handlers impressed in spring training, and as a result he's been splitting time between center and right fields in Triple-A. In 23 games for the Red Wings, Rosario has hit .242/.280/.379.
By Hicks' age-23 season, he was asked to start in center field for a Major League baseball team. We know that didn't go too well. Could we expect more from Rosario? Perhaps he's a better prospect in some respects, or a more complete one. Still, Hicks out-produced him at Double-A, and if Hicks struggled at the Major League level how much better could we realistically expect Rosario to be at this point in his career?
Danny Santana, who doesn't have nearly the track record as a minor league hitter as Rosario, debuted with the Twins last year and raked so well that they couldn't send him down again. Maybe that's the roll of the dice here: hoping that Rosario can similarly leave behind him a wake of pitcher corpses.
More likely, this move seems to be about two things: playing time, and experience. As talented of a player as Rosario is, bringing the rain like a 2015 version of 2014 Santana isn't a probable scenario. Instead, this call up gives Rosario an opportunity to get a glimpse of the big leagues like Jorge Polanco did last summer. The expectations on him aren't about grabbing a starting job in the outfield. They're about seeing the stadium, feeling the rush, experiencing that first plate appearance, and getting to know the team and watching the veterans go about their business.
On performance this year alone, Hicks looks like he deserves an opportunity. He's batting .289/.377/.494 in Triple-A this year, including 12 walks and 15 strikeouts, two stolen bases in two attempts, plus five doubles, three triples, and a pair of home runs. For Hicks, getting passed over is less about Rosario being the better player and more about ensuring Hicks continues to play everyday and continues to build his confidence as a part of his development that had been passed over these last two seasons.
That's why leaving Hicks in Triple-A is the right thing to do. Not necessarily because he's not as good as Rosario or because the organization has lost faith, but because he needs to play everyday and right now he's playing very, very well. Let him run with that for a little while longer. Let Hicks prove to himself that he's a good hitter and can handle Triple-A pitching, and then - maybe in a few more weeks or maybe even in a couple of months - perhaps it will be time to give him another opportunity in Minnesota.
For now, the Twins have a short-term opening in the outfield. Instead of interrupting a good thing for Hicks simply because he's playing well, the organization has chosen to give another integral prospect a glimpse of The Show. It's a good strategy. And it should pay dividends for both Rosario and Hicks.