As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season. That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning. Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review. Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season. As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!
Player: Jordan Hicks
Season stats: 5.40 ERA, 10 G, 10.0 IP, 5 H, 10 BB, 10 K, 1 inherited runner, 0 inherited runners scored, 4.17 FIP, 1.500 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, -0.1 bWAR, 0.0 fWAR
Statcast: .279 xwOBA, 0.0 barrel %, 80.8 exit velocity, 12.5 hard hit %, 22.7 K %, 22.7 BB %
Best Statcast category: Max Exit Velocity (51st percentile)
Worst Statcast category: None
Positives: Pitched in the big leagues again for the first time since June of 2019, even if it was only briefly….started the year with four straight scoreless appearances….limited hitters to a .147 average….lefties had a .481 OPS against him, in part because he only walked one of them….had a 1.69 ERA away from Busch Stadium….third through sixth place hitters went one for 14 against him….batters had a .553 OPS if they took the first pitch….even when the batter was ahead, they still only managed a .520 OPS….had a 0.00 ERA on three days of rest….did return to pitch with Memphis at the end of the season.
Negatives: His elbow inflammation wound up costing him another year on top of the 2020 opt-out/Tommy John recovery and the 1/2 of 2019 that he lost due to TJ….the lack of time on the mound showed as he walked almost a batter an inning….walked nine of the 31 right-handed batters he faced….only gave up five hits on the season but one was a double and one was a triple….had a 9.64 ERA at Busch in part due to walking eight in 4.2 innings….those in the leadoff position had a 1.333 OPS against him….batters had an .846 OPS with an even count….walked four in 12 plate appearances with runners in scoring position….his rehab with Memphis didn’t have great results, as he gave up five runs (and three walks) in three innings….cut his time in the Arizona Fall League short after just 4.2 innings, including an outing with four wild pitches.
Overview: Alex Reyes missed most of three seasons, diminishing his prospect status and putting his major league career not in jeopardy but on a different trajectory. Jordan Hicks may be following in those same footsteps. It was encouraging to see Hicks back on the mound to start the season and I think everyone knew that he’d have to be eased back into things with some rust on the delivery. However, having him go down with an elbow issue that initially was a four week setback and turned out to end his season in early May was a tough blow for fans, so you can imagine how frustrating it had to be for the young man. Dealing with more injuries, more rehab, more work to get back had to be a rough way to spend a summer and maybe that led into his departure from Arizona. The official line was that he felt he was where he needed to be but having thrown less than 20 innings between St. Louis, Memphis, and the fall league makes it hard to believe he wouldn’t have been well served to get a few more outings. The velocity still seems to be there (and, in truth, the control issues were present even before he got hurt) so there’s no reason in the world to write Hicks off from being a Cardinal for a long time to come. There are just some warning flags that he might not be the pitcher we thought he was going to be in 2018.
Outlook: Hicks is first-time arbitration eligible this offseason, which is really hard to believe that it’s come to this already. I imagine the club will be able to settle with him fairly easily and they have talked about him being a starter going forward. Again, harkening back to the Reyes discussion we had all year, it’s hard to imagine moving him to the rotation after only 20 innings, but it probably would help him manage his health better. If that is the case, though, there would seem to be a solid chance that Hicks doesn’t spend much of 2022 in the big leagues either as he builds up the stamina and experience to start at the major league level.