MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Scouting profile: John Hicks

Scouting profile: John Hicks

Background
Seattle Mariners right-handed-hitting catching prospect John Hicks had an outstanding junior season at the University of Virginia. He hit .332 with eight home runs and 59 RBIs.

Hicks' collegiate performance earned him a selection in the fourth round of the 2011 Draft. He was tied for the Cavaliers' team lead in homers and RBIs with Steven Proscia, who was also selected by the Mariners in the same Draft. They were two of the three Cavaliers chosen, as left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen was a first-round selection.

For a catcher considered "defense-first," Hicks began his career looking like his offense would take him a long way. He spent his rookie season at Class A Clinton in the Midwest League. Hicks hit .309 in 148 plate appearances. He's hit well since. Including games played late this season with the big league club, Hicks has compiled a .280 career batting average over parts of five seasons.

Now a member of Seattle's big league roster, Hicks is making his presence felt on both offense and defense. His upside remains as an excellent defensive catcher, but he can also provide a spark on offense, as I recently witnessed. In a game I scouted against the Rockies, Hicks dropped a successful bunt in front of home plate on a squeeze play. He can make things happen.

Hicks is No. 22 on the Mariners' Top 30 Prospects list.

Hitting
Hicks is emerging as a hitter. He hasn't shown power or an ability to consistently drive the ball, but he is far from an automatic out behind the plate. As the quality of pitching Hicks faces increases, he has been forced to improve his selectivity and pitch recognition. Once more of a free swinger, he has modified that approach.

It is not likely hitting will be the focal point of Hicks' baseball future.

I scouted Hicks in the 2014 Arizona Fall League. He hit .304 for Surprise, hitting two home runs and driving in 11 in 13 games. While I thought Hicks held his own at the plate, I was most impressed with his catching defense.

Defense
What I like most about Hicks is his game management. He is a good shepherd to his pitcher, calling a good game and reminding the pitcher of the situation and what would work best. Hicks has a calming influence while taking charge in an appropriate manner.

Hicks transfers the ball quickly from glove to hand and gets off a throw to second base in a timely manner. I have clocked his "pop time" at less than 2 seconds. While Hicks doesn't have the strongest arm, his mechanics and quick release are major components for success against potential basestealers. In his Minor League career, he has caught 47 percent of runners trying to steal.

Strengths
Hicks does the little things that may not be obvious. He can move a baserunner with good bat control, and he can make solid, consistent contact. Hicks is a good fastball hitter.

Hicks does not bring one overwhelming tool to his game. However, he is average or above average in most aspects. Hicks profiles as a very good backup catcher who can be depended upon to play sound defense and play the game with good fundamentals.

Weaknesses
At times, Hicks departs from good hitting mechanics and lengthens his swing. That's when he tries to do too much. However, Hicks quickly reverts to a more compact and realistic approach for his skill set. Like many young players developing their hitting skills, he has to gain more confidence in recognizing breaking balls and offspeed pitches.

I find this interesting
Hicks tore his ACL playing football during his senior year in high school. Even though that playing time was lost, he still was recruited to play for the University of Virginia.

The future for Hicks
I believe Hicks projects as a solid Major League-quality backup catcher. He can continue to refine his skills behind the plate, and Hicks should be able to help the big league club as the team's second catcher.

Hicks in a word
Gritty

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.