In an attempt to help fans understand the historic context that some of our Royals prospects currently find themselves in, I’ve been running some numbers to compare our guys to prospects of the past. The best example I’ve found is how MJ Melendez and Seuly Matias compare to other 19-year olds to play in the South Atlantic League. You can find that here.
Here are some other examples:
Get the idea? Find players that are _____ years old and have done ___________ and ___________ in the ______________ league. See if there are any historical precedents for what certain Royals prospects are currently doing. In the case of Nicky Lopez, Seuly Matias, and MJ Melendez, there plenty of promising comps. For Frank Schwindel, not so much.
However, when I went to look back at historical comps for Brewer Hicklen…well…there aren’t any. None that have reached the major leagues anyways. Here is a list of every 21 and 22-year old since 2007 to post a wRC+ of 148 or higher, a BB/K ratio of 0.28 or lower, and a SwStr% under 20% (4 factors going on here) in the South Atlantic League (min. 250 PA):
- Michael Benjamin (2014)
- Tito Polo (2016)
- Darick Hall (2017)
- Chad Spanberger (2018)
- Brewer Hicklen (2018)
That’s it. That’s the list. None of those guys have had a big league at-bat quite yet (in part because most of them are so recent). You may have seen the tweet above where I compared Brewer Hicklen to Rhys Hoskins, and while they compare pretty similarly, Hoskins walked almost twice as much as Hicklen.
Since we can’t examine any of these guys big league careers, and Chad Spanberger is currently playing in A-ball like Hicklen, let’s examine the minor league careers of the other three guys since they left A-ball.
- Michael Benjamin: Stopped being good pretty quickly and hasn’t played since 2016. To be honest, Benjamin’s 2014 stat line looks a lot like Brewer Hicklen’s line in 2018. This would be the worst possible outcome for Brewer Hicklen’s career.
- Tito Polo: The biggest difference between Polo and Hicklen is that this is Hicklen’s first go at A-ball and Polo didn’t find success until his 2nd go round. Polo’s 2016 season in the SALLY also looks similar to Hicklen’s. He currently has a wRC+ of 86 in AA with the White Sox. Not great, Bob. Polo’s power has almost completely gone away, but luckily for Hicklen, 2016 seems to be a crazy outlier in terms of power for Polo.
- Darick Hall: After putting up Hicklen-esque numbers in the SALLY last season, Hall destroyed High-A to begin 2018 to the tune of a 156 wRC+ in 48 games. He was promptly promoted to AA where his wRC+ has dropped to 86 in 35 games, but he’s still walking enough and his K’s are actually down from the SALLY. He’s got 9 HR in 35 games and, while he doesn’t run as much as Hicklen, and doesn’t play as valuable of a defensive position (1B), he looks like he’ll be okay for the time being.
As you can see, there’s not a ton of examples of guys having similar seasons as Hicklen. There’s even fewer examples of guys going on to have success after posting those seasons. Here’s the difference between Brewer Hicklen and everyone else on that list:
Brewer Hicklen was a two sport athlete in college, and a good one at that. He was a starting wide receiver on the UAB football team as well as a starting outfielder on the baseball team. Brewer Hicklen is focusing on baseball full-time for the first time in his life at the age of 22. Michael Benjamin played football in high school, but he had three years of college solely dedicated to baseball. The fact that Brewer Hicklen, who now has 12 HR and 18 SB on the season, can focus that athleticism towards one sport ought to be huge for his development.
Last season when Hicklen was drafted, our fearless leader, Patrick Brennan, was all aboard the Brewer Hicklen hype train. And after seeing what he’s doing to the SALLY this season, I’m thinking about buying a ticket as well. He’s going to be a lot of fun to follow for the next couple years.
Photo Credits: UAB Athletics