Jorda Hicks was once a promising phenom fireballer, and now his recent efforts have people wondering did he rise too fast or did he have a short burnout? They are also wondering just who is to blame for this. Management, coaching, scouting, Hicks himself, or is it just another player with a set of snowballing circumstances that waylaid his career.
Hicks was drafted in the 3rd round by the Cardinals out of High school in 2015. He was ranked 228th overall and 79 for RH pitchers and had an average fastball of 93 MPH.
He made his MLB debut on March 29, 2018, at the age of 21, against the NY Mets. Hicks pitched a total of 1 inning, gave up 1 hit, and struck out 1. He would pitch 73 games with a 3-4 record and a 3.59 ERA. He had 6 saves and 7 blown saves, along with 24 holds. However the telling stat was in 77 2/3 innings pitched he had 0nly 70 Strikeouts and 45 Walks and a WHIP(Walks+Hits/Innings Pitched 1.339
2019 was better numbers-wise, that is, until he hurt his arm. He was 5-9, with 14 saves 1 blown, save 3 holds, a 3.14 ERA, and 0.942 WHIP.
Hicks opted out of the 2020 Pandemic season, and last was the last time he had an ERA under 4 or was a viable alternative. In 2021 he pitched in 10 games at the start of the season before being shut down with arm issues again. He posted an 0-0 record with 0 saves and 3 holds with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.500 WHIP. Most of this was due to one bad game on April 23 vs. Cincinnati, where he gave up 3 runs on 1 hit and 2 walks in one-third of an inning.
Last year, in an effort to, as the team put it, better manage his innings, they were determined to turn him into a starter and stretch him out during the season, which was abandoned after 8 games.
As a starter, he was 0-4 with a 5.47 ERA and a 1.557 WHIP, and control was an issue with 21 walks in 26.1 innings. for a 1.19 S0/BB ratio. After being moved back to the bullpen, his numbers were better. 3-2 with a 4.37 ERA, a 1.143 WHIP, and 38 Strikeouts to only 14 Walks. So It looked like the bullpen was the place to go until this year.
In 7 games this year, he has a 12.71 ERA with a 3.353 WHIP and a Strikeout to walk ratio of 0.75, in short, he is terrible. If you watch him on the mound, he seems to have any sense of command, and I am not only talking about his pitches. His body language and facial expressions show a player with little confidence who is just going through the motions.
After meeting with Hicks before Sunday's game. Oliver Marmol indicated that the approach with Hicks would be to use him in Low-leverage situations. In the hope of getting him at least close to his old form. Hicks has amassed enough service time that he can't be sent down without his permission. It has been reported that during this meeting, Hicks turned down an assignment to Memphis. The Cardinals only have two options at this juncture. The only things St Louis can do at this point is to,
A. designate him for assignment and put him on waivers. If he clears waivers, then St Louis could assign him to Memphis. Or give him his unconditional release.
B. They could seek out a trade. The only issue there is he would have to be a throw-in with a couple of prospects or someone like O'Neil, Carlson, or someone like that.
But what has caused the issues?
He missed Three months (June through September) in 2019 with an Elbow issue. After taking off the 2020 season, he missed almost the entire 2021 (May through October) season with more elbow issues. He missed a little over a month(mid-September to October) in 2022 with an arm issue. Then last year out for three weeks with a neck problem.
Even when he is not injured or coming off of injury, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has never been over 2.82 and only one year above 2. It has been suggested that perhaps the fact that Hicks throws max effort on every pitch, often topping 100 MPH. The harder you throw, the more likely you will have the ball miss the strike zone.
Career mismanagement by the front office?
This is a fair question.
Hicks jumped from High A ball in Peoria straight to St Louis, never throwing an inning in AA or AAA. While his numbers on the surface were not bad in the minors. He was used primarily as a starter, and his control was questionable then, with his best year being a 2.11 Strikeout to Walk ratio.
So why was he brought up? For that, I blame the front office and the Cardinal management for not building a pitching staff that is not deep enough in talent to weather injuries and substandard performances.
Then trying to turn him into a max-effort reliever, then after the injury, they tried to make him a starter at the major league level by trying to stretch him out as part of the rotation instead of sending him to AAA, which I do believe caused him to injure his arm in 2022.
Sometimes a change of scenery may be needed.
I think the Cardinals have made grave mistakes in handling Hick's career, and they will not admit it. They continue to try to make him fit a role instead of figuring out what role is best for him. I think at this point, with his trade value low and the fact he is not willing to accept a minor-league assignment, Hicks needs to be cut loose and find what is best for him. At this point, he is blocking a spot that could be better used on someone else.
Between injuries and mismanagement, one thought on this is that Wilking Rodriguez is due to start a rehab assignment. Rodriguez is a Rule 5 draft selection which means he must stay on the active roster (unless injured) the entire season. He can not be optioned or designated for assignment. he can be waived, BUT if he clears waivers, he must be offered to the team he was selected from for ZERO compensation. So when Rodriguez comes off of his rehab assignment, he will need a spot on the active roster and to me and probably MOST SANE Cardinal fans. (Which would not include the front office) If Hicks is still struggling and refuses a minor league assignment, he should be designated for assignment and let the chips fall where they may.
It is a sad statement on Cardinal management to allow this to happen to Hicks and let it progress to where it is.
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