Internal options to replace Jordan Hicks in St. Louis Cardinals rotation

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Jordan Hicks (12) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Hicks (12) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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Internal options to replace Jordan Hicks in St. Louis Cardinals rotation include Jake Woodford and Packy Naughton. But could they pursue a trade?

Even before the St. Louis Cardinals placed right-hander Jordan Hicks on the Injured List, there was growing talk that he should be moved from the rotation back to the bullpen, as the experiment felt like a failure after he got off to a 5.02 ERA start in nine games (seven starts).

Sure enough, the Cardinals would not commit to Hicks starting once he comes off the IL with manager Oli Marmol saying (via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch): “I’m not sure yet. I can’t say, at the moment, that it won’t be as a starter. That’s what we need. Our hope is that he comes back throwing strikes and starts.”

But with Hicks struggling, and the Cardinals being around the fifth or sixth best team in the National League, they need results. Otherwise they risk falling even further back in the playoff picture. The good news for the Cardinals is that they have two internal options – Jake Woodford and Packy Naughton – and both have performed well this season.

Woodford, however, would be the preferred option. The 25-year-old is among their most promising young pitchers and in limited time in the majors, has flashed and looks like a pitcher the organization can attempt to build with. In only 13 innings this season, he has a 2.08 ERA and a 3.14 WHIP. A potential area of concern, however, is his walk rate: he averages 4.2 walks per nine innings this season, with his career average being 3.2. To stay in the rotation and even in the majors, he needs to cut that number down.

Naughton, meanwhile, was a low-risk add by the Cardinals this winter who has immediately flashed in six games, posting a 2.89 ERA and 8/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 9.1 innings. His FIP (4.53) would indicate that he’s due for regression, which could raise some concern about potentially bringing him to the rotation.

The Cardinals already have Matthew Liberatore replacing Steven Matz in the rotation while he’s on the IL. Perhaps Liberatore can take Hicks’ spot this season when Matz eventually returns. But the Cardinals have options to replace Hicks and if neither of them take hold of the No. 5 rotation spot, they have ample time to evaluate the trade market.

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