It’s been pretty obvious since the Twins traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere this offseason that they want 23-year-old former first-round pick Aaron Hicks to claim the Opening Day job in center field.
Today he probably erased any doubt, going 4-for-5 with three homers, six RBIs, and a stolen base in a split squad game against the Phillies. There’s an argument for sending Hicks to Triple-A for a month or two, in part because he’s never played above Double-A and in part because doing so would give the Twins an extra season of pre-free agency control, but Hicks is making that a tough sell to say the least.
Earlier this week I rated Hicks as the fourth-best prospect in the Twins’ farm system, which says more about the top-end talent they’ve accumulated in recent years than it does about Hicks. He’s a consensus top-100 prospect across baseball and in my write-up I concluded that “if last year’s power development sticks he has a chance to be a star.” Today at least it stuck. Oh, and Hicks homered yesterday too.
Major League Baseball just announced that there will be a pitch clock for spring training. It will be a 20-second pitch clock, phased in like so:
- In the first Spring Training games, the 20-second timer will operate without enforcement so as to make players and umpires familiar with the new system;
- Early next week, umpires will issue reminders to pitchers and hitters who violate the rule, but no ball-strike penalties will be assessed. Between innings, umpires are expected to inform the club’s field staff (manager, pitching coach or hitting coach) of any violations; and
- Later in Spring Training, and depending on the status of the negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, umpires will be instructed to begin assessing ball-strike penalties for violations.
As is the case in the minors, the batter will have to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least five seconds remaining on the timer; and the pitcher needs only to begin his windup before the 20-second timer expires, as opposed to having thrown the pitch. The timer will not be used on the first pitch of any at-bat. Rather, it begins running prior to the second pitch once the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher.
The league has not decided if the pitch clock will be used in the regular season yet. It can do so unilaterally, without union approval, for one year if it chooses to since it first introduced the idea last year.
There will likely be a lot of complaining about this, but as someone who has been to several minor league games with the clock in place, it’s pretty seamless and not noticeable. Minor leaguers had few if any complaints about its implementation.