With the 2021 season having come to a close, we are looking back at the year that was for members of the Texas Rangers.
Today we are looking at catcher John Hicks.
Hey, John Hicks! Remember him? The Rangers called him up in late June, after Jose Trevino fell at home, in what was initially thought to be just a few days on the active roster. When Trevino ended up having to go on the injured list because of the fall, Hicks was the official Backup Catcher on the roster.
Hicks was 31, had spent parts of the 2016-19 seasons in the majors with the Detroit Tigers, had spent the 2020 season at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Alternate Training Site without getting any major league action, and was at Round Rock in 2021 as insurance for exactly this sort of situation. He had slashed .275/.352/.440 for the Express prior to being called up, and so there was a collective shrug of the shoulders over the guy who would catch when Jonah Heim didn’t start.
John Hicks made his Rangers debut on July 1, starting against the Oakland A’s. After a K and a pop up in his first two plate appearances, he clobbered a home run off of Domingo Acevedo to lead off the sixth inning, giving the Rangers a 5-0 lead. He led off again in the eighth, smoked a single off of Burch Smith, and came around to score on an Eli White single.
It was quite a debut.
Hicks’ next start was on July 3, in Seattle. Leading off the third in a scoreless game, Hicks took Marco Gonzales deep to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead (and Eli White, three batters later, hit a three run home run, interestingly enough, or not interestingly enough, depending on your point of view). The Rangers batted around* in the third, and so Hicks led off the next inning...and pulled a ball right down the line in left for another home run off of Gonzales.
* I am of the school that believes that, if the ninth batter of the inning comes to the plate, you’ve batted around. I don’t want to hear about it if you disagree.
Three home runs in two starts for Hicks! Woo-hoo!
Three days later, on July 6, Hicks started again, against his former team, the Tigers. In the fourth inning, with Joey Gallo on second base, Hicks hit a 1-1 pitch from Jose Urena a mile high and, once again, right down the left field line. When it finally came down it was a home run, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead. John Hicks had homered four times in his first ten plate appearances for the Rangers.
There was joy and excitement. There were calls for Hicks to start playing more. He had always had decent power, and so maybe he had figured something out (even though his performance with Round Rock, where he had three home runs in the first two months of the season, suggested otherwise). Keep sending him out there and see what he can do!
Hicks started his next couple of games at DH, and went 1 for 7. He started four more games at catcher before Jose Trevino was ready to return, and went 1 for 12. Once Jose Trevino came back, John Hicks was sent back down to AAA, with a .258/.258/.677 line in the majors for the 2021 season.
Hicks actually hit pretty well in AAA after he was sent down — he slashed .302/.322/.583 in 146 plate appearances, homering ten times, but with a 50/5 K/BB ratio that underscored the contact issues he has dealt with in his career. And John Hicks is now a free agent, and will likely sign a minor league deal once spring training is about to begin with a team that needs minor league catching depth. He will probably hang around for a few more years, getting minor league deals every spring, possibly getting a short stint in the majors every now and then.
And for those of us who suffered through the awful 2021 Rangers season, he’ll always be someone who, when we see his name, will prompt us to go, “Hey, isn’t that that guy who hit a bunch of home runs when he was first called up when the Rangers sucked?”