St. Louis Cardinals: Looking forward to the return of Jordan Hicks

Jordan Hicks #49 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on June 6, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
Jordan Hicks #49 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on June 6, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals are getting closer and closer to taking the field.

Only 24 years old, Jordan Hicks is once again ready to make an impact with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The last time we saw Jordan Hicks on the mound at Busch Stadium was in 2019 before he underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. Due to the lengthy recovery time from the surgery and Hicks being a high-risk individual with COVID-19 because of diabetes, Hicks opted out of the 2020 season. Two years is a long time, so it’s not surprising that many of us have forgotten about how promising this young pitcher is.

Hicks spent only two seasons in the minors before making his debut in 2018. He made an instant impact for the Cardinals that season, pitching 77.2 innings and only giving up 31 earned runs. Oh, and he also threw the fastest pitch in baseball history. It was a pretty good debut.

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After showing off his potential in 2018, Hicks began the 2019 season as the Cardinal closer. Before his injury in June of that season, Hicks had converted 14 of 15 save opportunities. He had a 9.7 K/9 and hitters were batting .163 against him.

Since his debut in 2018, Hicks has averaged the fastest 4-seam fastball in the majors at over 100 mph. Not to be outdone, Hicks was one of only three pitchers in 2019 to have a sinker average over 100 mph. The other two? Well, Andres Munoz barely reached the minimum fifty pitches to qualify, so that doesn’t really count. All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, however, is quite the on-the-mound comparison.

Advanced metrics from Hicks’ last full season (2018) support his development into an elite reliever as well. We already know he has the fastest average fastball velocity in baseball, but Hicks was also in the top 4% of the league in opponent barrel percentage, opponent slugging percentage, and weighted on-base average on contact. Hicks doesn’t just throw hard– this guy knows how to pitch.

It’s not just that Hicks is a good pitcher, he is also one of the most exciting players in baseball. Once upon a time Trevor Rosenthal threw heat as the Cardinal closer, and I’ve seen other fireballers deal 99 or even 100 mph. But when Jordan Hicks sends a fastball splitting through the air, there is a real difference. Very few pitchers throw so fast that you hear the pop off the catcher’s mitt before your eye can make it to the plate. Just take a look at this pitch sequence.

The Cardinal bullpen is strong enough that Hicks won’t have to assume the closer role right away. Other young flamethrowers like Ryan Helsley and Genesis Cabrera will be ready to pitch big innings, as will Giovanny Gallegos and Andrew Miller. Once Hicks is ready to take off, however, there is no telling how dominant he might become.

Offseason videos have given the impression that the rehab has gone well, and I can’t wait to see that devastating fastball and wipeout slider at Busch Stadium this summer. In the meantime, here’s one more clip of Jordan Hicks embarrassing professional hitters. Fun stuff.

Could St. Louis pursue David Peralta?. dark. Next

Cardinal Nation is ready for more Jordan Hicks, but he’s far from the only exciting thing about the Cardinals in 2021.

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