It used to be that in Major League Baseball, the No. 3 hitter in your lineup was one of, if not the best bats a team could boast. Granted, that’s changed over the years as you’ll see some of the game’s most potent offensive players like Yankees star Aaron Judge batting second.
But Yankees manager Aaron Boone has slated Aaron Hicks into the three spot to kick off this season — a puzzling trend when thinking about the traditional characteristics that come with the responsibilities of hitting in that position.
Look around the league and it’s still a place reserved for the best of the best.
The Washington Nationals have an MVP candidate in Juan Soto — one of the best young hitters in the game — at No. 3 in their lineup. Last year’s NL MVP, Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, also hits in that spot.
So does Chicago White Sox powerhouse Jose Abreu, the newest St. Louis Cardinals star Nolan Arenado, and $300 million-plus players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
Those players are capable of putting up some monster numbers.
Hicks is not.
The 31-year-old center fielder has a career slash line of .234/.331/.400 (.731 OPS), which as Randy Miller of NJ.com points at, ranks amongst the bottom of Major League Baseball’s No. 3 hitters. His average and OPS ranks 29th while his on-base percentage is 25th.
He hadn’t done all that much to instill the confidence of Yankees manager Aaron Boone to assume this role, either. He struggled mightily in spring training and started the season 1-for-15 with seven strikeouts prior to Tuesday night’s meeting with the Baltimore Orioles.
Yet Boone backed Hicks after their opening series against the Toronto Blue Jays, teasing tweaks were possible before the Yankees stomped Baltimore 7-0 on Monday night.
“I think up and down our lineup, Aaron included, it’s guys with a pretty good track record,” Boone said. “I’m always willing to mix things up a little bit just depending on circumstances and things like that, but over the long haul Aaron Hicks is going to be all right.”