Welcome to a new prospect series. In it, I’ll be looking into some of our prospects that aren’t top martial but do at least something well enough that they could help the MLB club down the road, even if it’s just as bench fodder. I won’t be doing them in any sort of order, just whoever I feel like covering. That said though, the player I’m going to look at today is probably our best hitting prospect that wasn’t covered in the top-7 list. And his upside is even higher than a few names that were on that list.
Thomas Hickman was picked in the second round of the 2006 draft. At the time, his left handed swing was compared to former high draftee pick Jeremy Hermida. While that might make you throw up a little in your mouth now, keep in mind at the time Hermida was coming off of a .293/.457/.518 campaign in AA and rated the #4 prospect by Baseball America. Unfortunately, Hickman seems to be burning out even faster than Hermida.
As you can see, he’s struck out more than Mike Stanton in his career, just without the massive HR total. Still, he does hit for a lot of power, and does walk a good amount.
He showed some promise in 2008, and at just 20 years of age there would be time for him to work in his contact issues. He’d start 2009 in Jupiter where everything just fell apart. In 84 PA, he’d put the ball in play just 37 times. And when he did, it was abysmally. After a month he was placed on the restricted list, why is unknown but seems to be just to get his head on strait. He’d come back in August and play the final month for Greensboro, and he absolutely torched it. He still struck out a lot, but was hitting for Stanton-like power. At just 109 PA, it was also very small sample size.
He also has an inability to hit left handed pitching, to the point where the Marlins barely even let him face them. Over 90% of his minor league PA have come against RHP (Normally this is around 74%). And defensively, he’s roughly average as a corner OFer.
If he more or less stays the course as he is now, and does not have another Jupiter mishap, he could be a very nice left handed power option of the bench. We’d be looking at something around a .228/.338/.414 line, good for an essentially average .335 wOBA. With his average defense, that’d put him at a 1.5 WAR in 150 games (though keep in mind I have not adjusted this for his platoon split, so it would be even lower if he were to actually play in 150 games). Not starting material, but a decent bench bat.
However, considering just how bad his contact rates are and just how bad he was in Jupiter last year, if they overtake him again you may never hear the name Thomas Hickman again. Still, with just how much power he is, he does have considerable upside if he ever does learn to make more consistent contact. An already patient hitter, he could also raise his walk rates and become a Jack Cust kind of hitter, but that seems unlikely.