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Viva El Birdos Cardinals 2018 Prospect Rankings: #10 Jordan Hicks

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Throws hard and closed the season strong.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-All Star Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: A.E. Schafer aka the red baron has once again compiled a rather impressive list of Cardinals prospects doing a write-up on 40 individual prospects. As a convenience to our readers, he releases the list in a couple big chunks so everyone can read about all of the prospects at once. While that is a convenience to all of us who eagerly await the arrival of prospect lists, it might not be as convenient if you are looking for a player’s particular scouting report. So, as a further convenience, we are putting the individual scouting reports in separate posts to make individual players easier to find. You can find the full lists on our 2018 prospect page here. —CE

#10: Jordan Hicks, RHP

6’2”, 185 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 6 September 1996; Drafted Rd 3 2015

Level(s) in 2017: Peoria (Low A), Palm Beach (High A)

Notable Numbers: 18.2% K, 11.3% BB, 4.38 FIP (Peo), 30.2% K, 5.7% BB, 1.83 FIP (PB)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

At the time of the 2015 draft, Hicks was a lightly-scouted high school kid who showed promising arm speed and a natural ability to spin the ball, but also had rough mechanics, little control to speak of, and was just generally raw even for a high-schooler. He wasn’t really even on my radar at the time, and I was actually down on the pick when the Cards took him in the third round, mostly because there were multiple other players still on the board I thought were better bets. (Some of those players I preferred look pretty good. Others, most notably Trey Cabbage, um, do not.)

Two and a half years later, Jordan Hicks is one of the fastest-rising pitching prospects in the minor leagues, and whoever scouted him deserves a raise. Maybe a promotion, too.

That natural arm speed he showed as a high-schooler has blossomed into elite velocity, as Hicks now works comfortably at 94-97, and has been clocked into the triple digits in shorter outings or reaching back in a start. Beyond just the velocity, his fastball also has hard running and sinking action, resulting in an upper-90s bowling ball that hitters simply cannot lift. The pitch has 70+ potential, if he learns to dial it in in terms of command.

Along with the fastball, Hicks boasts one complementary pitch that has at least plus potential, in a big power slurve that, at its best, is devastating against same-handed hitters. It’s closer to a curve than a slider, but it definitely has enough of that in-betweenness that I would insist on calling it a slurve. Part of the issue is that Hicks tries to throw both a curve and slider, and the two seem to bleed together a bit. Personally, I don’t think he needs the slider, and would probably advocate scrapping it and focusing on honing the command of the curve.

He also throws a promising changeup, with good action down and to the arm side, but it’s not consistent yet. Of course, the fact that he’ll pitch all of 2018 at 21 years old means there’s probably not a lot of reason for concern yet over an inconsistent changeup. The pitch will flash at least average, and maybe even a touch above when he really commits to it. He’s still tentative with the pitch, though, trying to baby it in the way many young pitchers do when they’re still trying to master the change.

It’s an open debate for me right now who has the best pure stuff in the system between Hicks and Alex Reyes. Reyes is further along in his development, yes, but Hicks’s fastball has better movement and is more of a groundball pitch, in addition to the great velocity. If forced to choose, I would probably go for Reyes, but it’s a close call.

Which leads to the question: why, if Hicks has such remarkable talent and stuff as to be neck-and-neck with the top prospect in the system (spoiler alert, I suppose), is he ranked tenth, instead of second, or third, or fourth? The answer is relatively simple; Hicks still has a lot of developing to do. He took a big jump when he moved up from Peoria to Palm Beach, as his walk rate dropped nearly by half and his strikeout rate exploded to over 30%, but it was in a small sample of less than 30 total innings. What Hicks needs is time and repetition to improve his command of his repertoire. If he continues to develop, and what he did at Palm Beach was not a small sample mirage, there’s a good chance he could be sitting at the top of this list next year.

If he’s good, it will look like: The mid- to high-90s velocity coupled with tremendous sink and run on the fastball put me in mind of no one so much as the Colorado version of Ubaldo Jimenez. As of right now, Hicks has the same control issues Jimenez fought pretty much his whole career; let’s hope Hicks is able to continue improving in that arena. (I wouldn’t hate seeing him learn a splitter, either.)

via Baseball Census: