Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire might not want to admit it, but rookie outfielder Aaron Hicks is clearly overmatched at the plate. I caught a few of Hicks' at-bats over the weekend and again Monday, with each of them ending in strikeouts, and at some point soon, a stint at Triple-A Rochester will be warranted, if it's not already. Hicks, 24, became a popular sleeper for many fantasy owners this spring, as he hit .370 with four home runs and 18 RBIs to earn the starting center field job vacated by the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere, but so far in the big leagues, he has produced two singles in 30 at-bats, with 13 strikeouts.
Those in dynasty formats and even one-year AL-only leagues should be patient by benching Hicks even if/when he's demoted, because his future remains enticing. Hicks features a patient approach at the plate, as he piled up the walks at each minor league stop. He also strikes out quite a bit and doesn't figure to hit for a high batting average, but fantasy owners should be willing to overlook that, given his potential for double-digit home runs and 30 steals. Frankly, it's not a shock he's struggling. After all, three of the four home runs he hit in spring training, and six of his RBIs, came in one wind-blown game against three Philadelphia Phillies left-handers in Clearwater, Fla., one month ago. Hicks is the No. 11 outfielder on ESPN's most dropped list.
For now, fantasy owners in deeper formats should get reacquainted with speedster Darin Mastroianni, who stole 21 bases last season despite getting only 186 plate appearances. He has been hobbled by a bruised ankle suffered when he fouled a ball off it weeks ago, and hasn't batted in a game this month, though he has been used as the left field defensive replacement for Josh Willingham. It's hard to believe the Twins will keep sending Hicks out there regularly unless he starts hitting. He's not a proven veteran; he's a kid who hasn't played above Double-A and is likely losing confidence. Mastroianni is more of an organizational player and brings little upside, but when healthy he'll certainly run, and that's enough for some fantasy owners.
The other Twins outfielder to watch is current right fielder Chris Parmelee. He's first base-eligible in ESPN leagues -- he likely will add outfield eligibility -- and he's going to hit. The lefty-swinging Parmelee raked at Rochester last season, hitting .338 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs in 64 games. He might cede at-bats to Wilkin Ramirez, a right-handed hitter who doesn't possess near the same plate discipline, but Parmelee is a threat for 15 home runs and a strong batting average, and he's someone I've been watching for a few seasons. And on this team, he has opportunity. Add him in deep formats before he really starts hitting.
Box score bits (NL): Well, start No. 2 for Roy Halladay wasn't any better than his first outing, and perhaps worse considering the foe. Unable to locate his pitches, the New York Mets lit up Halladay for seven runs in four innings. I still wouldn't cut Halladay yet in 10-team mixed leagues, but a benching is in order. ... Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was on the bench over the weekend because of a neck strain, but he looked just fine roping three hits Monday. ... By the way, the most dropped catcher in ESPN leagues is Brewer Jonathan Lucroy. Big mistake. You want him over John Buck for sure. Lucroy walked three times Monday. Can it be considered a slow start so soon? I don't think so. ... Buck did hit another home run Monday. But he's 33 and is a career .236 hitter. He's not a different player. ... The St. Louis Cardinals welcomed back David Freese (back) from a short DL stint. He played 144 games last year, but don't expect a repeat there. There's upside, but there's also health risk, and the team has depth with Matt Carpenter able to play third base. ... Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo keeps on raking at the plate, knocking in three more runs Monday. He's hitting .379 with power and plate discipline, but he dropped a pair of fly balls in center field for errors, too. Why Chris Heisey is playing left field and not center I cannot fathom. Choo's playing time should be safe in left or center, but his pitchers are better off when he's in left field.
Box score bits (AL): Baltimore Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen looked really good for six innings Monday, matching up with Clay Buchholz, then Daniel Nava took him deep for a three-run homer. I've been skeptical about Chen repeating his productive 2012 campaign, but so far, so good. He's next scheduled to meet the Yankees on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball." ... Chen should oppose Hiroki Kuroda. The wily right-hander worked through a bruised finger Monday, walking four, and should be owned in all leagues. ... Don't read too much into Aaron Crow saving Monday's game for the Kansas City Royals. If Greg Holland can't fix things, Kelvin Herrera would be the closer. I will add, though, that big league managers should be open to letting different pitchers close games. ... Keep an eye on Texas Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry. The right-handed hitter started Monday against right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, perhaps suggesting his platoon with Leonys Martin is up for grabs. Gentry stole his second base of the season. He could add 25 more with 400 at-bats. ... Speaking of Hellickson, in two starts he has permitted three home runs, and struck out just three total. I'm not punting him, but I can't say I'd use him Sunday in Boston, either.