John Hicks Excelling in Miguel Cabrera’s Absence

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 23: John Hicks #55 of the Detroit Tigers makes a play at first base against the Minnesota Twins during the game on April 23, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Tigers defeated the Twins 13-4. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Detroit Tigers have scrapped their way to an even 12-12 record to close the first month of the season. The team has limped through the final week of April with injuries to Miguel Cabrera, JaCoby Jones, and J.D. Martinez. Cabrera’s trip to the disabled list is quite a blow to the Tigers offense. John Hicks was called upon to step in and perform in his absence, and he has.

John Hicks Performing in Cabrera’s Absence

Miguel Cabrera suffered a right groin strain during play on April 21. The Tigers were cautious about both playing him and placing him on DL. They ultimately decided to put him away for ten days. John Hicks was recalled from Triple-A in a corresponding move.

Hicks, 27, had been off to a great start with the Toledo Mud Hens. The catcher/first baseman was hitting .424, with 12 RBI through the first ten games. He was an excellent candidate to look to for production instead of just a stop-gap when Cabrera went down.

The Tigers have sent Hicks into seven games so far. Hicks has taken the major league opportunity to its fullest. He’s 11-for-26 so far, good for a .423 average, while also hitting three doubles and a home run.

Having James McCann and Alex Avila on the roster with John Hicks gives the Tigers a lot of flexibility. All three are capable behind the plate as a catcher. All three can take up the designated hitter role, each having experience both as a DH and a bench bat. Avila can also play first base, as can Hicks.

The flexibility between catcher and first base is a problem many teams run into throughout a season. Hicks, Avila, and McCann are producing at the moment, and that’s what their jobs are. None of those three players have the best history in the batter’s box; that doesn’t matter, so long as they keep doing their jobs.

Who is John Hicks?

A native of Richmond, Virginia, John Hicks played college baseball at the University of Virginia. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels out of high school in the 31st round of the 2008 draft. He improved his stock immensely in three years, leaving UVA as a junior after being selected in the fourth round by the Seattle Mariners in 2011.

In his college days, Hicks was an offensive threat. He belted 24 home runs in his three years, while also batting .316. The University of Virginia baseball squad took two trips (2009 and 2011) to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska during his stay. Virginia lost to South Carolina in the 2011 semifinals, their best finish in school history at the time. According to virginiasports.com, Hicks was the 37th player from the school to appear at the top level of the sport.

Hicks made his debut on August 29, 2015. The Minnesota Twins claimed him off waivers in the following winter, and he was subsequently claimed by the Tigers in the opening weeks of the 2016 season. At each stop on the minor league ladder, Hick proved he could hit for average and offer modest power here and there. He doesn’t offer much power for a first baseman, but brings good offensive value when judged as a catcher.

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