Who comes to mind when we talk about the best Orioles hitters? Maybe it's one of the young superstars like Adley Rutschman or Gunnar Henderson. Maybe it's Anthony Santander, who's on pace to lead the Orioles in home runs and RBI's for a second consecutive season, or Ryan O'Hearn who's completely turned around his career thanks to a fantastic 2023.
You can't really go wrong with any of these answers, but I'd like to throw another hat into the ring. Let's start talking about what Aaron Hicks is doing at the plate since landing with the Orioles.
Aaron Hicks has been tremendous in an Orioles uniform
A Rocky Start to the Season
Aaron Hicks became public enemy number one in New York thanks to a rough start to the season (after multiple disappointing seasons before this year as well). In 28 games with the Yankees in 2023, Hicks slashed a lowly .188/.263/.261, with a WRC+ of just 49 (league average is 100). He hit just 1 home run and drove in just 5 runs over 76 plate appearances.
The Yankees fan base, and seemingly the organization itself, had seen enough from Hicks. They designated Hicks for assignment on May 20th, even though they still owed him over $20 million through 2025. This brought an end to Hicks's career with the Yankees, which spanned across parts of 8 seasons with the club.
A Fresh Start
After Cedric Mullins hit the I.L with a groin injury, the O's picked up Aaron Hicks to fill in the centerfield position. He quickly made an impact with a slash line of .250/.372/.486 in his first full month with the Orioles. He hit 4 home runs and drove in 11 runs in June, solidifying himself as an impact player for the rest of the season.
Even after Cedric Mullins's return from injury, Hicks became a regular in the lineup for Brandon Hyde. He's fought some injuries and had a tough month of July, but Hicks has rounded into form at the perfect time. So far in September, Hicks is slashing .394/.487/.545 with a home run and 9 runs batted in.
How does he compare to other Orioles hitters?
Although it's a very limited sample size for Aaron Hicks, he's towards the top of many of the Orioles offensive leaderboards. In 53 games with the Orioles this season, Hicks has a WRC+ of 135, with a slash line of .287/.381/461. His 135 WRC+ leads all Orioles hitters, with Gunnar Henderson and Ryan O'Hearn slightly behind.
He also leads the Orioles in OPS, on-base percentage, and just slightly beats out Adley Rutschman for the highest walk percentage at 13.4%. Hicks also has the second highest batting average on the team and the 4th highest slugging percentage. He's been an extremely positive contributor in his limited time with the Orioles.
Hicks may not hit the ball extremely hard (below average exit velocity according to Baseball Savant), but throughout his career he's done two things extremely well. He walks a ton and he rarely ever chases. Those trends have continued during his time with the O's, leading to an elite 21.2% Chase rate and 12.2% walk rate this season (combined between the Orioles and Yankees).
I think Hicks was a fantastic addition by Mike Elias, and you could make an argument that it was one of his best during his tenure with the O's. Hicks represents exactly what this Orioles team does well. They grind out at bats, work the count, and capitalize on mistakes. Aaron Hicks had been doing this for years, and he has seemed to get back to his game this season. Even though it's a small sample size, Hicks has established himself as one of the Orioles best hitters this season.