by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There has been intrigue about the Cardinals’ Jordan Hicks, but he generally hasn’t gotten much attention due to his lack of experience and the presence of high-upside arms nearing a Major League impact. That changed yesterday, when the Cardinals announced that Hicks’ dynamic arm would break camp as part of the Major League Bullpen (despite never pitching above High-A). For a team with closing questions, it’s significant news that can’t be overlooked. For those who know very little about him, here’s what we need to know about Jordan Hicks:
Cardinals’ #9 Prospect
Throws – Right-Handed
Age – 21
Single-A – 78.0 IP, 3.35 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.27 K/9, 4.50 BB/9
High-A – 27.0 IP, 1.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10.67 K/9, 2.00 BB/9
What Others Said:
His fastball will sit in the mid-90s, frequently touch the upper-90s and flirt with triple digits, all with plus natural movement. He throws a very hard power curve that eventually could be a plus pitch as he works to be more consistent with it. He has some feel for his changeup, though he’s still learning how to pitch soft.
Hicks still needs to refine his command and become more consistent in repeating his delivery. That will help him with his fastball command, his first order of business in 2018. That could lead his stuff to play up even more and allow him to reach his fairly high ceiling. – MLB.com
There has been talk in the past that he’d be a better fit in the bullpen, especially since his control has been his biggest question mark (4.0 BB/9). While he hasn’t shown much strikeout stuff (7.4 K/9 over 165.2 IP in the minors), the scouting report indicates more upside and in shorter stints it could play up that much more. Couple that with a 1.77 GO/AO in the minors (55.1% groundball rate in ’17) and the makings of an elite reliever is all there.
The question is if he’s a figured out his control. He had 6 BB over 27.0 innings at High-A and he followed that up with 1 BB over 7.2 IP this spring. We are looking at small samples, but with this stuff if he can keep the control in the 3.50 BB/9 range he will be an elite reliever. If he’s better than that? Look out (especially since the development of his changeup isn’t as important).
While there could be some bumps, especially given his lack of experience, Hicks’ presence in the bullpen adds a new wrinkle. The Cardinals currently lack the obvious closer, and that’s not a knock against Luke Gregerson, Dominic Leone or Brandon Lyons. The fact is Hicks’ stuff is better and he has the potential to quickly develop into an elite reliever. As it is Derrick Goold tweeted yesterday that, “Hotshot prospect will be part of late-inning mix.” For those searching for saves he’s worth grabbing to see how things play out.
Current Grade – C+
Upside Grade – B+
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
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