SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As playoff baseball rages from coast-to-coast -- especially in the state of Texas -- hitters are making their mark and carving out legacies for years to come. For all of the jaw-dropping homers and run-scoring hits this October, no one currently digging into the batter’s box is
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As playoff baseball rages from coast-to-coast -- especially in the state of Texas -- hitters are making their mark and carving out legacies for years to come. For all of the jaw-dropping homers and run-scoring hits this October, no one currently digging into the batter’s box is as hot as Rangers prospect Liam Hicks.
After notching the first six-hit game in the Arizona Fall League in 14 years on Tuesday, Hicks was at it again Thursday in Surprise’s 7-6 win at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, collecting three knocks in his first three plate appearances. For context, just 13 MLB players since 1961 have rapped hits in 10 straight at-bats, a mark that Hicks fell just short of after drawing a walk in the seventh. (The Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez is the most recent big leaguer to have a hit in nine straight at-bats, having done so in August.)
Hicks’ latest banner night came against arguably the most advanced arm he’s faced at this stage of his career, Atlanta’s Dylan Dodd, who made seven starts in The Show in 2023.
“He's got some nasty stuff, but I also know he's gonna be in the zone,” Hicks said of the left-handed Dodd. “He's got really good command. So really, I was just trying to look for a fastball in the zone, something I'm going to turn around.”
And did Hicks ever turn a heater around in his first at-bat. Getting a center-cut fastball, the left-handed-hitting catcher walloped a ball 427 feet to straightaway center at 103.3 mph off the bat. The ball -- which would have been a home run in 29 of the 30 MLB ballparks according to Statcast -- caromed off the batter’s eye and resulted in a double.
On the other side of the coin, when you’re living as right as Hicks has been, even softly hit balls seem to find a hole. Protecting the plate in a two-strike count in the fifth, the Toronto native got his bat to an 84.2 mph cutter outside the zone and dribbled it into center.
Hicks has collected a hit in each of his first six Fall League appearances for Surprise, pacing the entire circuit with a .538 average. The 24-year-old backstop spent the majority of the season with Double-A Frisco after hitting his way through the lower levels of the Minors over the past two years. Walking nearly as many times as he struck out in 2023, he posted a .414 on-base percentage, the top mark among Rangers Minor Leaguers with at least 250 plate appearances.
Hicks closed the regular season in something of a rut, with nine hits over his final 12 games. He had nearly two weeks off from game action before flawlessly delving into the Fall League. While Rangers faithful are fully locked on the team’s path to a potential World Series run, Hicks and other talent in the pipeline look to that standard from afar.
“They treat the guys so well and it's so nice seeing how successful they are up there,” Hicks said of the organization. “Just great people, great baseball players, but even better people. So that's really what makes it even better.”
Even unprecedented streaks have a conclusion. After reaching base in 10 straight plate appearances for the Saguaros, Hicks was finally retired in the ninth. But he still had the last laugh.
Strapping back on the catcher’s gear, Texas’ ninth-round pick from the 2021 Draft aided hard-throwing right-hander Emiliano Teodo through a 1-2-3 final frame. The Rangers’ No. 22 prospect consistently ramped his heater north of 98 mph, even touching 100.3 on one of his strikeouts.
The elevated competition level portends to pay dividends as Hicks continues a journey that saw him playing at Mineral Area Junior College in Park Hills, Mo., just four years ago. After two seasons at Arkansas State -- where he slashed a combined .340/.482/.571 -- he signed with the Rangers for a well-below-slot $30,000 signing bonus.
“Tons of work. Tons of nights in the cage with friends, teammates,” Hicks said of his journey. “I know there's still a long way to go because this isn't the end goal that I want to be at. But I am really proud of myself for how hard I've worked and how far I've come.”
Jesse Borek is a reporter/coordinator of prospect content at MLB Pipeline and MiLB. Follow him on Twitter @JesseABorek.