Daily Dollar debates: Brown and Hicks

With a week left until the season starts, I thought it would be fun to engage the readers in lively, constructive fantasy debate. This series of articles will focus on low-risk, medium-reward $1 sleepers who could be a boon for stars-and-scrubs minded drafters and diamonds in the rough for active waiver-wire fishers. The goal of each article is to present a short, objective analysis of two players comparable in expected value. I hope this provides a chance for readers to debate in the comments below. I look forward to reading everyone’s thoughts!

Domonic Brown vs. Aaron Hicks

Both players are having big springs, but neither is getting much attention outside of single-league format leagues. Hicks is not even in the top 1,000 players ranked on Yahoo (I suspect that will change in the coming days, with Hicks having locked down a full-time position with the Twins to open the season), and Brown is ranked just outside the top 250 by Yahoo. Despite the low rankings, both are arguably relevant in non-shallow mixed formats (12+ teams, four or more outfielders). The players, however, are vastly different.

Hicks is the younger player, and a top three organizational prospect in a system that boasts two promising top-100 overall prospects ranked ahead of him (third baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Byon Buxton).

Now entering his age-23 season, Hicks started his minor league career young and was slow to develop. He played well in Double-A last season at age 22, batting .285/.382/.459 with 13 home runs and 32 steals. However, Double-A is the highest level of professional experience on Hicks’ resume, and he’s making the leap to the majors to open the season. That jump is pretty substantial for a non-pitcher prospect who is near-universally ranked outside the top 50 entering the 2013 season.

Hicks’ biggest strengths are his patience at the plate (career 14.8 percent minor league walk rate), speed and defense. He also has good gap power and should be able to post a double-digits home run season over a full season of at-bats—an increasingly rare attribute of players with 30+ stolen base upside. His minuses are a relatively high strikeout rate for his power level (career 20.1 percent in the minors), and below average, but improving, contact skills. Hicks could be an underrated major league staple with a prime time ceiling akin to Shane Victorino. But is he ready for The Show now, and might a level jump hurt his development?

Brown is no stranger to the prospect tag himself. Once ranked among baseball’s brightest up-and-coming hitters, Brown has stumbled his way into post-hype obscurity over the past three years. Once a perceived 20-20 threat I compared, in terms of potential long-term fantasy value, to Shin-Soo Choo, Brown owns a career .236/.315/.388 triple slash line with 12 home runs and three net steals over 492 major league plate appearances. That makes him look more like a Ben Francisco wannabe.

Now he’s 25 years old, and the Phillies’ expectations of Brown have mellowed. However, a monstrous spring training seemingly has pushed the Phillies to hand Brown an everyday gig in the outfield. What is different this year, and should we buy into numbers that are traditionally to be taken with a grain of salt?

If Brown’s post-hype spring numbers are legit, he should be a threat to post a slightly below-average batting average with 15- to 20-home run power and double-digit steal upside. He’ll likely bat in the upper part of the bottom of the Phillies lineup, which should make for good RBI opportunities but minimal runs scored. That makes Brown a potential three-category player.

However, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the quality of pitching that Brown has faced overall this spring ranks somewhere below Quadruple-A. Once he is consistently matched up against major league talent, which Brown will we ultimately see at the plate?

Time for you to chime in. Who would you rather have this season in re-draft leagues: Domonic Brown or Aaron Hicks? Check out the stats below and post your comments!

Aaron Hicks 2012 (AA) 563 0.285 0.382 0.459 13 32 100 61
Aaron Hicks 2013 Oliver 584 0.242 0.322 0.391 13 18 72 57
Aaron Hicks 2013 Spring 68 0.350 0.397 0.650 4 3 16 16

Domonic Brown 2012 (AAA) 220 0.286 0.335 0.432 5 4 33 28
Domonic Brown 2013 Oliver 482 0.262 0.332 0.427 14 9 59 58
Domonic Brown 2013 Spring 84 0.368 0.429 0.671 7 0 22 16

Jeffrey Gross is an attorney who periodically moonlights as a (fantasy) baseball analyst. He also responsibly enjoys tasty adult beverages. You can read about those adventures at his blog and/or follow him on Twitter @saBEERmetrics.
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Chicago Mark
11 years ago

Good work.  Where do you think Marte of Pitt fits with these three?  I seems to have more support from his org than Brown.

11 years ago

Where do you get the data about the quality of pitching Brown faced on BR? Thanks!

Jeffrey Gross
11 years ago


It is the last Spring Training stat listed, OppQual

Chicago Mark:
I am too worried about the potentially crowded OF. While Snider is no lock to keep his OF position, both Snider and Tabata are out of options. Jerry Sands also looms. That said, atop the order, I like him as an OF5 in deep leagues. I think both Hicks and Brown have greater “talent” ceilings, though.

11 years ago

New Phillies hitting Coach Wally Joyner had Brown change his grip on the bat and the adjustment has helped his bat speed and he is no longer late on pitches on the inside

Jeffrey Gross
11 years ago


He is the lead off hitter, but if he struggles there are guys ready and able to take his place, ESP if pirates are in contention

Chicago Mark
11 years ago

Reading 3.27 post next but one last thought on Marte.  I thought he was already given the leadoff spot for Pitt.  Is this wrong?  Isn’t Pitt leaning on him a lot this year?