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.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.