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Aaron Hicks Is a Cheaper Version of Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham and Aaron Hicks have a lot in common. Both didn't truly break out until their late 20s. Neither has ever logged 600 plate appearances in a season, thanks to checkered injury histories. They also produced remarkably similar numbers last season.

With all that in mind, it's a bit surprising to see such a large discrepancy in their acquisition costs for 2019. Pham is going nearly 60 picks earlier than Hicks on average in NFBC drafts. In one hypothetical scenario, you could draft Pham and Charlie Morton, or you could opt for Hicks and Stephen Strasburg.

Should you follow the wisdom of the crowds and select Pham? Or in this case, is it more akin to a harmful herd mentality holding Hicks hostage? Are you ready for me to stop asking rhetorical questions and using unnecessary alliteration and get to the actual analysis? Why didn't you say so?

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Tommy Pham - 61 ADP

Pham's out of nowhere 2017 season (.306/.411/.520, 95 R, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 25 SB) endeared him to many fantasy owners entering 2018. There were some valid concerns with taking his breakout campaign at face value. Pham, who would turn 30 before the season began, didn't have much of a prospect pedigree, and his prior track record (both in the minors and the majors) was more good than great. None of this stopped most owners from investing heavily in his services, and he tore out of the gate with a .341/.453/.511 line in the first month.

Then the wheels fell off. Over the remainder of the season's first half, Pham hit under .200 as his strikeout rate spiked, he quit stealing bases, and eventually he was bumped from the top of the lineup toward the bottom. He made it clear he wanted out of St. Louis, and the Cardinals front office obliged with a deadline-day trade to Tampa.

Pham's performance with the Rays was extraordinary. He went hitless in six of his first seven games with his new club, and missed a couple of weeks with an injury. After that initial hiccup, however, he reached base in 31 straight games to end the season, going without a hit in just three of those contests and collecting multiple hits in 13. His numbers over that stretch: an absurd .388/.479/.511 slash line, with seven homers, five steals, and 53 R+BI.

Pham's season may have been something of a roller coaster ride, but those who stuck with him were rewarded with a season that ranked among the top 40 hitters. He hit 30 points lower than the previous year and stole 10 fewer bases, but produced nearly identical totals in home runs and run production. He turns 31 this week, and in addition to a host of nagging injuries he's suffered over the last couple of years (groin, foot, finger, ankle, shoulder, and thumb), Pham's degenerative eye condition looms as an ever-present issue. Still, 20/20 players who can also score 100 runs and hit for average aren't exactly easy to find outside the first couple of rounds.


Aaron Hicks - 119 ADP

Brian Cashman has had a pretty incredible run in his two-plus decades of running the Yankees, but convincing the Twins to trade him Hicks for a backup catcher (the name of whom I'll bet you can't even remember without looking up, unless you're an embittered Twins fan) might be among his greatest accomplishments. The newly-minted multimillionaire struggled in his first season in the Bronx in 2016, but put together an .847 OPS with 15 homers and 10 steals in just 361 plate appearances the following year. That made him a popular value pick in drafts last spring, and he delivered in spades. While his OPS dipped slightly to .833, Hicks smacked 27 homers, stole 11 bases on 13 tries, and totaled 169 R+BI in 137 games.

Hicks is likely to hit in the top half of a stacked Yankees lineup once again this year, with some combination of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Sanchez either flanking or following him. With that supporting cast, his run production should remain elite, and the power surge certainly appears sustainable at this point. Given his pull-heavy tendencies, Hicks is unlikely to be an asset in batting average despite his speed and contact ability. Again, though, legitimate four-category contributors don't grow on trees, and a .250 mark goes a little further than it used to in fantasy.

As with Pham, the major question is health. Last season was the first time Hicks eclipsed 400 plate appearances in a season, and he's been a big leaguer since 2013. Some of that is because of demotions related to ineffectiveness rather than injury, but even last season Hicks missed time with rib and hamstring issues, and he's currently battling lower-back pain.


The Decision

Both Pham and Hicks can contribute in runs scored, home runs, and stolen bases. Pham is likely to hit for a higher average, while Hicks should see more RBI opportunities. Neither should be considered a safe bet for 600 plate appearances given their past health problems. If their draft costs were more similar, it would be extremely difficult to decide between the two. As it stands, there simply isn't enough separation to justify a five-round gap in 12-team leagues. Either player would be great to have on your roster, but Hicks is the smarter buy.

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