In Jed Hoyer’s second draft as the man in charge of the Chicago Cubs front office, he decided to go with a lefty college arm in the first round. After choosing Ed Howard a year prior, lefty Jordan Wicks was snagged by the Cubs with the 21st selection in the 2021 draft. Wicks attended Kansas State University from 2019 to 2021 and put up solid numbers as a Wildcat.
In those three seasons, Wicks posted a 15-6 record in 34 starts. The 6’3″ left-hander possessed a 3.24 ERA and a 1.246 WHIP in just over 200 innings tossed. Despite having the 2020 season shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wicks turned heads as a sophomore. The Conway, AK native went 3-0 in four starts across 26 innings pitched. He also had 26 strikeouts, an outstanding 0.35 ERA, and a 0.654 WHIP in this short span. Because of his arsenal and collegiate success, it’s not surprising Wicks was the second left-hander taken in the entire 2021 draft.
Jordan Wicks: Profiling the Cubs Lefty Prospect
Keeping the Change
Wicks has a pretty standard set of pitches when sequencing. He possesses a pair of heaters, both sitting in the low 90s. He tops out around 94-95, but the velocity isn’t what stands out with his fastballs. His two-seam fastball has some incredible run to it and makes his sinking four-seamer look much faster coming in than it really is.
The lefty pairs his fastballs with a duo of offspeed deliveries. His slider is a pitch that has come along nicely since his time at Kansas State. Its development has made for a solid second option outside of Wicks’ bread-and-butter offspeed pitch.
It was known heading into the 2021 draft that Wicks had the best changeup out of all the prospects available. It sits in the low 80s with an immense amount of fade that has already made big-league hitters look silly. Without this out-pitch for the lefty, there is a decent chance he would not have gone in the first round.
Success All Over the Place
In his first full season in the Cubs farm system, Wicks didn’t have crazy numbers by any means. However, he kept his ERA under four, which is more than adequate for an arm fresh out of college. He went 4-6 with a 3.80 ERA in 24 starts across two levels in that 2022 campaign. In 94 2/3 innings tossed, Wicks had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.32.
The 2023 season is where Wicks turned it up a notch and earned his call to the show. He didn’t lose a game across AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa, going 7-0. Wicks had a 3.55 ERA and a 1.172 WHIP in 91 1/3 innings.
Jordan Wicks is the first Cubs starting pitcher since 1901 to record three-straight wins to begin his career. pic.twitter.com/HtbgKLbKWF
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 6, 2023
Wicks got the call to make his major league debut on national television on August 26 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite a rocky beginning, the former first-round pick had a rather impressive debut in the show. He collected the win after recording five innings on the hill. Wicks only allowed one run on two hits and struck out nine in the Cubs 10-6 victory in that Saturday evening tilt. Wicks made six more starts down the stretch for a Cubs team that fell just short of the playoffs. He finished the 2023 season with a 4-1 big league record in seven starts. Wicks registered 34 2/3 innings and possessed a 4.41 ERA, along with a 1.269 WHIP.
Wicks Should Pick Up Where He Left Off
It’s not often you see a young lefty arm come up and have the immediate success that Jordan Wicks had in Chicago late in the 2023 campaign. With the addition of Japanese left-hander Shota Imanaga in free agency, Wicks’ spot in the rotation come Opening Day isn’t a mortal lock. The lefty will likely be one of the five or six that make the staff to begin the season, but it won’t come as easily as one might have originally thought. However, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to send a 24-year-old with early major league success back to AAA. Wicks should accompany the veterans in this rotation, with Spring Training games right around the corner.
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