With ice in his veins and heat in his arm, Jordan Hicks is quickly making a name for himself with the St. Louis Cardinals. Already becoming one of the most reliable arms in Mike Matheny’s bullpen, he is without a doubt electric and fun to watch. And is perhaps one of the biggest names so far in the Cardinals already long list of rookies. Hicks brings an unusual level of calm to the plate and doesn’t seem to be phased when he is placed in a situation with runners on. With an ERA at only 2.05 and 22 innings pitched, the up and coming rookie looks to be a so far consistent arm, and a key in the Cardinals Bullpen.
What is truly incredible to see is the fire he brings to the mound. Already earning the title of 2018’s fastest pitcher, Hicks appears to have surpassed the dominant speed pitcher that is Aroldis Chapman. Currently not only having the fastest pitch of the still young 2018 season. Hicks and Chapman have all 25 fastest pitches between the two of them according to Statcast, Hicks with 16, Chapman with 9. What is interesting to note is an at bat that took place on May 20th at Busch Stadium in the top of the 9th inning. With the Cardinals, up 5-1 over the Phillies, Obdubel Herrera came to bat with his team down to their final out, the leader in batting average faced the 21-year-old pitcher. Hick’s didn’t seem to be afraid of the skillful batsman. Hicks proceeded to do what nobody in baseball has ever done.
The slowest pitch thrown during the at bat was clocked at 103.7 mph. The strikeout included 5 pitches all ranking at the top of Statcast’s fastest pitches of 2018. This isn’t just in the National League, but in all of baseball. He also recorded a pitch that has tied Chapman’s fastest recorded pitch of all time at 105.1. The movement on the pitch was unbelievable, but the speed alone was incredible to see. The crowd without a doubt was behind him, the electricity in the stands, this young pitcher just kept bringing the heat. Hicks had plenty of time to think about each pitch, Herrera spends a lot of time at the plate between pitches. “He just takes forever to get in the box, to be honest, it kind of amped me up a bit, and I (brought) it against him” Hicks said after the game. Given how the MLB wants to increase the pace of play, I could see Herrera being pushed by either fines, or pressure to get into the batter’s box and continue the at bat, but Hicks didn’t seem to mind as he brought pitches in sequence at 104, 105, 104, 105, and 103.
One question I have seen surfacing after the incredible performance, Will the Cardinals organization try to limit the young pitchers arm? It goes without saying that pushing the limits of one’s physical abilities also increases their risk to get injured. With the number of pitchers requiring Tommy Johns surgery on the rise, a big arm like Hicks may be in danger of injury if he continues to let loose and launch 100 mph and up fast balls. Overuse, or overpower may put too much strain on his elbow eventually landing him on the DL, a place that Cardinals players are becoming all to familiar with. Perhaps allowing hicks to pitch multiple innings, and receive multiple days of rest may be a better option, but how they use them may have an effect on the longevity of his career.
Another question comes with the point of control. Should the Cardinals staff ask Hicks to slow his pitches down in the name of control? 105 mph wasn’t exactly clean coming out of his arm, and catcher Francisco Pena nearly came out of his shoes, and lost his glove lunging for the first 105 mph pitch. I don’t think anybody wants to be hit with a pitch, but I am sure 105 mph will leave a nasty bruise. If control were to become an issue, would the result be a trip back to Memphis to find his control, or perhaps a drop in velocity to find the strike zone again? The control on his slider is there, and the fastball command does seem to be fine, but will the front office or the coaching staff put pressure on him to slow down.
Only time will tell what is in store for this electric young man, but the fans are surely buzzing at the fact that the kid can throw heat. Perhaps Mike Matheny will continue to use him in a way that keeps his arm healthy and dominant. Varying his velocity up and down and his use of the strike zone may help keep his ERA low, and his WHIP at the level it is at. The bullpen has several upsides, and Hicks is certainly a major highlight to witness in the rotation.