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Updated: April 1st, 2013 2:50pm
Torii Hunter, prior to Tigers debut, speaks glowingly of Aaron Hicks

Torii Hunter, prior to Tigers debut, speaks glowingly of Aaron Hicks

by Brandon Warne
1500ESPN.com
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A familiar face had plenty of nice things to say about a new face prior to Opening Day at Target Field.

Torii Hunter, who'll make his Detroit Tigers debut Monday, gave a glowing review of Minnesota Twins centerfielder Aaron Hicks during pre-game media festivities in the Tigers clubhouse.

"I've talked to him several times," Hunter said of Hicks. "He seems like a good kid. He's pretty much a five-tool player, a switch hitter. And not just a switch hitter who is poking the ball, but he can hit for power."

And while Twins fans may be wondering if Hicks can be another Hunter, there are some skillset differences which fans should expect at the outset.

As far as similarities go, Hicks will flash occasional power, and is every bit as fast as a young Hunter was. But beyond that, Hunter has a much stronger 'swing-first' mentality, whereas Hicks is much more disciplined, to the point where some talent evaluators questioned whether he was downright passive at the plate.

Statistically speaking, Hicks walk rates in the minor leagues have typically been in the 14-15% range, and most projection systems this season have him somewhere around the 10% mark in the major leagues. Hunter's career mark is 7.3%.

But that discernment should suit Hicks well in the leadoff spot, where he is expected to see a number of pitches and give Joe Mauer an adequate number of plate appearances with the opposing first baseman holding Hicks on. That added gap could provide some added benefit to Mauer, who hits his fair share of well struck grounders to the right side of the infield.

Ultimately, Twins fans are hoping for the next centerfielder in a long line of good ones, starting with Kirby Puckett in the mid-80s. And Hunter thinks Hicks could be that guy.

"I definitely feel that this guy has all the potential in the world to be the centerfielder that Twins fans have always been able to watch over the years," Hunter concluded. "He has all the intangibles and potential, just give him a little time."

Brandon Warne covers the Minnesota Twins for 1500ESPN.com. He has also contributed as a baseball analyst for Fangraphs.com and BaseballProspectus.com
Email Brandon | @Brandon_Warne
In this story: Joe Mauer
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