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Monday, May 21, 2018

Jordan Hicks, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. among the MLB’s youth surge

Hicks has a little giddyup in his game.

1. Jordan Hicks is redefining what a hard-throwing pitcher can be. Ever since the Cardinals took him in the 2015 draft — with, naturally, the 105th pick — he has tantalized the organization with his athleticism. Nobody saw this.

Even with a velocity jump last season, which Hicks spent in Low-A and High-A, the prospect of him doing much more than spending this season rounding out his arsenal to remain a starting pitcher seemed far-fetched. Then he came out in spring training busting triple digits and strong-armed the Cardinals into making him part of their opening day bullpen.

And he’s been excellent, with a 2.05 ERA over 22 innings, though Hicks may well be the greatest curiosity in baseball, and not because the world wonders how a 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander may throw harder than anyone in history. No, it’s because in this moment, this baseball epoch where striking guys out is easier than ever, Jordan Hicks, he of the 105-mph fastball, has the 235th strikeout rate of the 236 pitchers with at least 20 innings. He has struck out nine batters — and walked 16. Coming into Sunday, Hicks had thrown 229 sinkers and generated swings and misses on just 20, according to Brooks.

Seeing as its average velocity is over 100 mph, Hicks’ two-seamer has the potential to be the rare groundball-heavy swing-and-miss pitch. (See: Zach Britton’s sinker.) For now, it’s just something to ogle. The major league version of what

Jim Furtado Posted: May 21, 2018 at 08:54 AM | 42 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: general, jordan hicks

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   1. The usual palaver and twaddle (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: May 21, 2018 at 10:55 AM (#5676382)
Never mind. Too much snark for this early in the morning.
   2. PreservedFish Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:01 AM (#5676385)
3.7 K/9 for Hicks, with a 105mph fastball. That is fascinating.
   3. Nasty Nate Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:02 AM (#5676387)
Vlad Junior is batting .421 in 180 PA's. No other regular on his team is above .300
   4. salvomania Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:02 AM (#5676391)
I actually thought that GIF of the ridiculous bending 105mph pitch that Hicks threw was fake---it's that cartoonish and unbelievable.

I still think it might be fake.
   5. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5676393)
Hicks is fascinating, agreed. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer but I don't see how the rate stats are sustainable.
   6. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5676394)
I was just looking up Hicks' #'s and was shocked at his k rate. Small sample size? Or does he need to develop and breaking pitch? It reminds me of that Ralph Wiley story about a very young Rickey Henderson decidedly unimpressed with a flame throwing pitcher because his pitches "didn't have a tail".
   7. Nasty Nate Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:09 AM (#5676401)
I was just looking up Hicks' #'s and was shocked at his k rate. Small sample size? Or does he need to develop and breaking pitch?
I think his 100+ pitches are breaking pitches, or at least hard sinkers. They are not Billy Koch-esque yard-stick-straight heaters.
   8. The usual palaver and twaddle (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:12 AM (#5676404)
Could Jordan Hicks be the next John D'Acquisto?
   9. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:12 AM (#5676405)
I think his 100+ pitches are breaking pitches, or at least hard sinkers. They are not Billy Koch-esque yard-stick straight heaters.

Huh. That's the damnedest thing, then. Major league hitters are not like you and I.
   10. PreservedFish Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:15 AM (#5676410)
I wonder what my K rate would be if I had a 105mph fastball.
   11. formerly dp Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:17 AM (#5676411)
Surprised the Sota callup hasn't received more attention. Any of the resident Nats folks care to weigh in?

I don't care that it might not make the most sense bc of the roster/lineup composition, but I'd like to see the Jays do the same with Vlad Jr.
   12. Baldrick Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:21 AM (#5676415)
I've watched Hicks a few times and his stuff looks good. Combined with the ridiculous heat, it's honestly pretty baffling. My Moneyball brain tells me to trust the underlying numbers, and not get hoodwinked by a guy who looks good. But...he looks really good.

Will be very curious to see if he develops a swing-and-miss pitch. Or if he doubles down on this ridiculous heavy sinking fastball and turns into the new Brandon Webb or something.
   13. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:25 AM (#5676423)
Vlad Jr, May 2018, .466/.502/.822
   14. John Northey Posted: May 21, 2018 at 11:41 AM (#5676435)
As a Jays fan watching Vlad Jr is a thing of joy waiting until the Jays give in and call him up - hopefully with a fresh new 10 year deal :)

421/472/697 right now in AA. To put a dampener on it somewhat he hit just 211/276/278 in winter ball last winter (Dominican league). Also of note: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on the same team in just 55 PA hit 347/382/510 before coming up and hitting 206/229/309. So take the stats with a grain of salt. Vlad is in AA until June at least then to AAA for the rest of the regular season and 1 or 2 weeks of 2019 most likely.
   15. Perry Posted: May 21, 2018 at 01:01 PM (#5676494)
Hicks did strike out 95 in 105 IP last year, but that was A-ball. And he allowed nearly a hit per inning. I dunno, his pitches LOOK unhittable, but clearly they're not. It's weird, when you see hitters swinging through 93-95 all the time.
   16. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: May 21, 2018 at 01:02 PM (#5676495)
Other than defense, what does Vlad need to work on in the minors? He's crushing the ball at AA.
   17. Nasty Nate Posted: May 21, 2018 at 01:06 PM (#5676497)
I dunno, his pitches LOOK unhittable, but clearly they're not.
Well, they are unhittable in that hitters are only slugging .200 off him. But they are somehow able to make lots of fair ball contact.
   18. SoSH U at work Posted: May 21, 2018 at 01:10 PM (#5676504)
Other than defense, what does Vlad need to work on in the minors?


His walk rate? Something tells me that subject didn't come up much over dinner.

   19. eric Posted: May 21, 2018 at 01:12 PM (#5676507)
re: Hicks. Does he have much off-speed stuff? Spahn's timing->disrupting that timing and all that.
   20. Perry Posted: May 21, 2018 at 02:07 PM (#5676572)
re: Hicks. Does he have much off-speed stuff? Spahn's timing->disrupting that timing and all that.


His only off-speed pitch is a mid-80s slider that's actually been pretty effective. In fact sometimes it looks like he can throw it for a strike more reliably than his FB.
   21. Perry Posted: May 21, 2018 at 02:11 PM (#5676577)
He says he's working on a changeup he likes but I haven't seen him throw it yet.
   22. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 21, 2018 at 02:17 PM (#5676586)
His walk rate? Something tells me that subject didn't come up much over dinner.


He walked 72 times in 527 PA last year and currently has 16bb/15k so far this year. If you can crush everything they throw, why wait for a walk?
   23. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 21, 2018 at 02:50 PM (#5676626)
W/r/t Hicks...as long as he doesn't give up any homers he might be able to get away with numbers like that but I don't think it's sustainable. I guess we'll see what his stats look like at the ASB.
   24. Random Transaction Generator Posted: May 21, 2018 at 04:14 PM (#5676708)
Vladdy Jr. is just obliterating AA pitching. His power level is obscene.

He hits opposite field home runs...off a tee.

As Carlos Pena says, "That's not normal!"

#PLAKATA!
   25. cardsfanboy Posted: May 21, 2018 at 04:39 PM (#5676731)
I was just looking up Hicks' #'s and was shocked at his k rate. Small sample size? Or does he need to develop and breaking pitch? It reminds me of that Ralph Wiley story about a very young Rickey Henderson decidedly unimpressed with a flame throwing pitcher because his pitches "didn't have a tail".


Right now it's because he's throwing a lot of pitches in the meat of the strike zone. He's not locating on the corner or bottom or top. I said in chat, that I think he wanted to get to that 105 or whatever, because someone else earlier in the month topped his top fastball and he wanted to regain his crown. Now that he has it back, I'm hoping he'll stop trying to be the fast, and just settle for 100 mph fastballs with better location.
   26. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: May 21, 2018 at 07:24 PM (#5676834)
Wrong thread.
   27. Tim M Posted: May 22, 2018 at 05:08 AM (#5677085)
Hicks FIP: 4.91 vs actual 2.05 ERA. I know small sample size and all, but methinks this guy doesn't follow the regular rules.
   28. Bote Man is no David Posted: May 22, 2018 at 07:14 AM (#5677096)
Surprised the Sota callup hasn't received more attention. Any of the resident Nats folks care to weigh in?

Juan Soto: GOOD!
   29. spycake Posted: May 22, 2018 at 07:51 AM (#5677107)
Also of note: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on the same team in just 55 PA hit 347/382/510 before coming up and hitting 206/229/309. So take the stats with a grain of salt.


Gurriel's line was worth a 145 wRC+, and it was only 12 games.

Guerrero is at a 216 wRC+, over 39 games.

Not sure the former says much about the latter.
   30. Count Vorror Rairol Mencoon (CoB) Posted: May 22, 2018 at 08:36 AM (#5677112)
Nice to see the mention of GLEYBER!

Sitting at: .321/.389/.571/.961/154
   31. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 22, 2018 at 08:41 AM (#5677114)
Indeed, the entire Yankees team is neck-deep in this youth surge; last week they fielded their first team where no starter was over 29 in something like 40 years. Gleyber, Judge, Severino, Sanchez, Andujar, there's so much outstanding young talent that Clint Frazier can't break into the lineup.
   32. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 22, 2018 at 08:50 AM (#5677116)
#PLAKATA!
WTF is this? I saw a segment on MLB Network the other day that as far as I could tell consisted of Carlos Pena randomly shouting 'Plakata!!!' over various highlights. Annoying as hell.
   33. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 22, 2018 at 09:07 AM (#5677119)
#PLAKATA!


It is annoying, and even the internet doesn't seem to know what the hell he is talking about.
   34. Greg K Posted: May 22, 2018 at 09:15 AM (#5677123)
It does seem to mean "poster" in Bosnian, if that helps.

In that clip above Pena says it's what he and his brothers called solid contact when they were growing up.
   35. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 22, 2018 at 09:33 AM (#5677128)
It does seem to mean "poster" in Bosnian, if that helps.

In that clip above Pena says it's what he and his brothers called solid contact when they were growing up.


I saw that it meant "poster" and my first thought was "does carlos pena speak Bosnian?"
   36. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 22, 2018 at 10:59 AM (#5677194)
In that clip above Pena says it's what he and his brothers called solid contact when they were growing up.
Oh, ok, clearly that makes it hilarious for him to scream it over and over again apropos of nothing on national TV. I withdraw my objection.
   37. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: May 22, 2018 at 12:16 PM (#5677266)
Indeed, the entire Yankees team is neck-deep in this youth surge; last week they fielded their first team where no starter was over 29 in something like 40 years. Gleyber, Judge, Severino, Sanchez, Andujar, there's so much outstanding young talent that Clint Frazier can't break into the lineup.

The Cubs do this basically every day Zobrist doesn't start; Zo is the only position player on the Cubs over 29. The Cubs also recently had a lineup that included 5 straight of their first round picks (Baez, Almora, Bryant, Schwarber, Happ).

The Cubs aren't a trendy young team anymore - it doesn't help that Heyward is still there - and they don't have any other young guys ready to burst on the scene, but it's easy to forgot how young they are too.
   38. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 22, 2018 at 12:42 PM (#5677280)
but it's easy to forgot how young they are too


Not when you sit next to a Cubs fan at work, it isn't. :)
   39. Rally Posted: May 22, 2018 at 01:11 PM (#5677294)
Getting the call as a teenager is a pretty good indicator these days that you are bound for stardom. A list of recent players who debuted at 19 or younger is nearly a who's who of superstars. There are a few guys who disappointed, but were mega prospects at the time. Then there's Sir Eugene Kingsdale, called up by the Orioles in September 1996. Not a top prospect that I recall, and had only played 49 games in Frederick above rookie ball. Kingsdale got into 3 games but no plate appearances. Looks like he was speedy, maybe they just wanted a guy who could defend in center field a bit.

You would not likely see that situation now, not just for service time. If you viewed Kingsdale as a temporary useful bench piece but not a real prospect, then you don't care that much about starting his service clock. But you do have to put him on the 40-man roster, and usually when that happens, you risk losing someone else who was good enough to be on your 40 to start with.

Looking back earlier, one player who stood out to me is Brian Greer, who made his debut at 18 for the 1977 Padres. He got one at bat and struck out. His minor league performance was 50 games in low A, where he hit .188. He was a first rounder, 8th overall that summer. Maybe some perk in his contract that they'd give him an AB (such contract items no longer allowed). He got one more chance in MLB 2 years later and went 0 for 3. Greer was a 6'3, 210 pound outfielder and it looks like he could run. He turned into a minor league 3 true outcome guy. In 1982 he had 566 PA, and did not make the fielders work in 340 of them - 31 homers, 103 walks, 202 k, and 4 HBP.

Looking back you see a lot of nobodies who got to play briefly as teenagers, maybe as bonus babies or for who knows what reason.

Playing well as a teenager was and remains a mark of greatness. 22 batters have 1+ WAR as teenagers. 9 are HOFers. Machado and Harper one day may join them. The rest were at least good players, some HOVG like Sherry Magee and Cesar Cedeno.
   40. Random Transaction Generator Posted: May 22, 2018 at 01:13 PM (#5677297)
Oh, ok, clearly that makes it hilarious for him to scream it over and over again apropos of nothing on national TV. I withdraw my objection.


Vlad Jr. knows what it means and he says it too during the extended video segment I linked.
I suspect it's just part of the baseball slang among Spanish speaking players.
   41. formerly dp Posted: May 22, 2018 at 03:43 PM (#5677460)
Juan Soto: GOOD!

Thanks for that detailed commentary :)

I'm sort of wondering what happens when Eaton comes back, given that they'll have essentially 5 OFs for 3 spots (counting Adams). Can't imagine they'd send Soto down if he's hitting well, but I guess if Taylor continues to struggle, that'll make the decision about who sits pretty easy.
   42. Baldrick Posted: June 07, 2018 at 04:39 PM (#5687959)
Since this link was posted, Hicks has thrown 9 innings, with an 11/3 K/BB ratio. His ERA has actually gone up, though. FWIW.

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