St. Louis Cardinals: Say no to Jordan Hicks as opening day closer

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 02: Jordan Hicks
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 02: Jordan Hicks /

The St. Louis Cardinals are in search for a closer for the 2019 season. While the talent is appealing, Jordan Hicks just doesn’t seem ready to assume the role when Opening Day comes around.

One of the St. Louis Cardinals offseason goals is to identify a closer for the 2019 season.  It’s not clear whether it will be through trade, free agency, or a current internal option. However, one avenue I would not like to see walked down is Jordan Hicks as closer on opening day.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying Jordan Hicks should never be the closer, just not as the prime option on Opening Day. Hicks may one day be the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals, but not yet. My case will be that he is not ready to take over the duties by opening day 2019.

It appears I’m not alone in this opinion. According to Jenifer Langosch, the Cardinals are not ready to turn the role over to Hicks, at least not yet. In a recent piece, Langosch quoted Cardinals President of Baseball Operations, John Mozeliak, giving a typical “Mo answer” to a question.

“Do we have confidence in someone like Hicks being our closer? The answer is yes.  Does this mean he will be? No.” Mozeliak remarked. “I think as the off-season plays out, we’ll definitely try understand if there is an arm or two to help that bullpen to where we’re not reliant to have a slick young flame thrower in that role.”

Got that? Hicks will not be closing for the St. Louis Cardinals when the 2019 season starts. So let’s look at the case for Jordan Hicks being the opening day closer and the reasons it won’t happen.

The Case for Jordan Hicks

In short, he can throw a baseball really hard.  He has a fastball that averaged just over 101 mph and a slider that held opponents to .091 batting average in 2018. Hicks pitched 77.2 innings last year, earning 70 strikeouts, six saves, a 3.59 ERA, primarily pitching as a set up man for closer Bud Norris.

Impressive stats for a guy who had never pitched above A ball in the minor leagues. Hicks surprised many in the baseball when he made the St. Louis Cardinals roster after spring training. Although he threw for 7.2 innings, fanning eight against one walk, his promotion to the MLB club was unexpected.

The 21-year-old right hander, was demoted once during spring training for tardiness to team activities. This led some to question his maturity and begin to ponder whether or not he was ready for the big leagues. Nevertheless, the Cardinals took a chance and added him to the major league active roster, and it had a pretty nice payoff. Hicks rewarded the Cardinals in his first 22 innings by earning a 2.05 ERA and striking out nine hitters.

So with these stats, why the concern with Jordan Hicks?

The Case against Jordan Hicks

To put it bluntly, walks. In those first 22 inning with the St. Louis Cardinals, he walked 16 batters. By the end of the year, Jordan Hicks had walked 45 batters in a little over 77 innings pitched and saw his ERA balloon from 2.05 to 3.59. For 2018, he had 5.2 walks per nine innings and a WHIP of 1.34. It seems rather risky for a closer who would often be asked come into high leverage situations with runners on base to have such errant control.

However, another persistent issue during the 2018 season, concerned Hicks maturity. As stated earlier, the former third round pick had been tardy for team activities during the spring training, reportedly getting to the point where it earned him a demotion.

After making the active roster coming out of spring training, Bud Norris took it upon himself to ‘mentor’ the young reliever on his conduct. This created somewhat of a stir in the media when reported as ‘bullying’ instead of ‘mentoring.’ Although both players dismissed the report, concerns about Hicks maturity persisted.

Being in the closer role requires more than just pure talent. You are the main man in the ‘pen, a leader among the relievers. There is a certain level of discipline that one needs to show to be worthy of that role, and I am not sure that Hicks has shown that so far in his young career.


So, the search for a closer continues for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals could address the issue via free agency. Candidates for the front office are Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, and Andrew Miller, among others.

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Trading for the closer position is another option available to the Redbirds. They certainly have some pieces to give up to address the issue. Jose Martinez, Carson Kelly, and Luke Weaver have all been mentioned as trade bait to address issues with the bullpen or the everyday lineup.

Internal options could be considered, since the Cardinals are full of young talented arms. One mentioned by Langosch’s piece was Alex Reyes. Although the Cardinals would like Reyes be in the rotation, recent health issues may indicate he would be better suited for a bullpen role.

Finally, the next year’s closer could be an unexpected candidate, such as Bud Norris was in 2018.  Many fans will remember how Ryan Franklin unexpectedly filled the role from 2008 to 2010, saving 82 games.

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The St. Louis Cardinals front office obviously hope Jordan Hicks will eventually be able to fill the role of closer. However, just not now. Easing the young right-handed flame thrower into the role would be the best approach. Maybe sometime in 2019, Hicks will inherit the role, but he just isn’t ready to be the closer come March 28.