When Yankees general manager Brian Cashman acquired Aaron Hicks from the Twins 18 months ago, he could hardly have been more excited.Cashman spoke of Hicks' athleticism, speed and defensive skills, emphasizing that the outfielder wasn't yet a finished product and that he was well worth taking a chance on.Some of
When Yankees general manager Brian Cashman acquired Aaron Hicks from the Twins 18 months ago, he could hardly have been more excited.
Cashman spoke of Hicks' athleticism, speed and defensive skills, emphasizing that the outfielder wasn't yet a finished product and that he was well worth taking a chance on.
Some of us wondered if Cashman was overselling the 25-year-old who had played 225 games for Minnesota and compiled a .225 career batting average. Turns out, he wasn't overselling at all. At the moment, there aren't many American League outfielders better than Hicks.
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Hicks and other #ASGWorthy players
Hicks' .994 OPS is second only to Yankees teammate Aaron Judge (also known as Superman). He's also second to Judge among AL outfielders in Wins Above Replacement (2.6).
So when Judge packs his bags for Miami next month, let's send Hicks with him. They both belong. While Judge is the leading vote-getter in the AL, Hicks wasn't in the top 15 among AL outfielders in the latest voting results.
Hicks isn't the only player who could use a bump at the ballot box. Let's also do some old-fashioned get-out-the-vote work for Michael Conforto, Josh Harrison, Ender Inciarte and Justin Upton.
Your Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot awaits your thoughtful consideration, with the Midsummer Classic less than a month away on July 11.
Let's look at the case for all five:
1. Aaron Hicks, Yankees, CF
.312, 10 HR, 36 RBI, .994 OPS
Cashman's acquisition of Hicks for catcher John Ryan Murphy is one of many reasons the Yankees are atop the AL East. Hicks has done almost everything well, including 14 doubles and 10 home runs along with 34 walks and seven stolen bases. His defensive metrics are solid as well.
2. Michael Conforto, Mets, OF
.293, 14 HR, 36 RBI, 1.004 OPS
That's Conforto is not on the ballot says the Mets weren't quite sold this would be his breakthrough season, and that's why there's a write-in space on the ballot. He seems likely to end up in Miami even if it's not as a starter. Conforto fourth among National League outfielders in Wins Above Replacement at 2.4, right behind the Nationals' Bryce Harper (2.8), the Marlins' Marcell Ozuna (2.6) and the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon (2.5). Only Harper has a higher wRC+ (163-162).
3. Josh Harrison, Pirates, 2B
.305, 8 HR, 22 RBI, .848 OPS
Harrison is on the NL ballot as a second baseman, but he has made 32 starts at second and 24 at third for the Pirates. He's 15th among all NL players with a 2.1 WAR and trails only Washington's Daniel Murphy in OPS at second baseman. Harrison's .305 batting average is also second among NL second basemen to Murphy's .345.
4. Ender Inciarte, Braves, CF
.300, 6 HR, 27 RBI, .764 OPS
Inciarte's 1.9 WAR is second among NL center fielders, trailing only Blackmon's 2.5. He is also second to Blackmon in batting average and is fourth in OPS (.764). Inciarte is as good defensively as almost any center fielder in either league and is one of the players the Braves have identified as a building block for the years ahead.
5. Justin Upton, Tigers, LF
.265, 13 HR, 40 RBI, .859 OPS
Upton was just 19 when he made his Major League debut for the D-backs in 2007, and since then, the expectations have been more than almost anyone could meet. Lost amid the discussions of what he is or isn't is that he has methodically pieced together a very nice career. Upton is fifth among AL outfielders with 13 home runs and is sixth with an .859 OPS.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.