Jump to content
North Side Baseball
  • North Side Baseball's 2023 Top 20 Cubs Prospects: #5 - Jordan Wicks

    Matt Trueblood

    We’ve reached the top five in our countdown of the Cubs’ top 20 prospects, as voted on by the North Side Baseball community, which means each player from here onward gets their own full post and deeper breakdown.

    Image courtesy of © Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Cubs Video

    5. Jordan Wicks - LHP
    Age: 23
    2022 Stats (A+/AA): 24 G, 94 ⅔ IP, 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 30.1% K, 8.5% BB, 10 HR

    The Cubs were pleased and excited when Jordan Wicks fell to them at the 21st overall pick in the 2021 Draft. A good blend of polish and upside, Wicks dominated college ball at Kansas State, though without the high-end velocity that gets collegiate aces drafted near the top of the first round. He’s a lefty with average velocity, and the primary tool he brought with him to pro ball was a plus changeup.

    Obviously, any lefty starter in MLB is going to see a whole lot of tough right-handed batters, so starting a repertoire with a good change is very valuable. The risk involved is significant, though, because what works at the amateur level–even a high level of competition like the Big 12–will absolutely not work in MLB. The challenge in scouting a player like Wicks lies in looking at that changeup and knowing it will have to be reinvented, or at least tweaked, along with all the other improvements an organization has to ask of a young hurler. The scouts, player-development analysts, and key decision-makers have to figure out how much they can trust a young person to hang onto what has made them special, even as they have to undergo an overhaul.

    Wicks has repaid that trust rather impressively, so far. The job isn’t done, but he made a great head start on it last year, adding a slider that should miss bats against lefties without losing feel for either his fastball or that changeup. That gives him, more or less, two pitches for each type of batter: the fastball and changeup against righties, and the fastball and slider against lefties.

    There’s a lot of work left, of course. His changeup really is stellar, and he might even be able to throw it left-on-left a bit in the big leagues, but it’s not going to miss bats in the majors at the same rate as it has in the minors thus far. Without those whiffs, his control could become more of an issue, because although he’s athletic and repeats his delivery well, his initial arm action creates just enough noise to make pinpoint command elusive.

    To make up for that, even as he works to tweak either the usage of the change or the interaction between it and his fastball, Wicks could work on sequencing and feel for his curveball. That pitch is never going to be a major part of his arsenal, but he could steal strikes with it early in counts, as long as he avoids making that a predictable tack. There are some scouts who think he could benefit from adding a cutter, which would complement the fastball and changeup against righties and help him tone down some of the hard contact he projects to give up with his current arsenal. The danger there lies in adding too much and complicating his profile more than his development can handle.

    A much simpler prototype for Wicks is right in front of us, although there are obviously some important differences. Justin Steele does just fine with (more or less) a two-pitch arsenal, relying on a fastball with some cut to it and a big-breaking slider. Wicks has the changeup instead of Steele’s slider, and Steele’s is the more versatile weapon. Wicks’s fastball has more riding action but less gloveside movement than Steele’s, which can work to his advantage because of the movement profile on the changeup but makes the fastball itself less dominant than Steele’s. 

    The last thing to consider, then, is whether a bit of continued mechanical refinement and some training focused on velocity could get Wicks working more into the mid-90s with his fastball. If he could find a couple more miles per hour, everything could play up, even without unique or devastating movement. As Wicks opens the season in Double-A Tennessee, our main focus can and should be on his results. He needs to learn to work deep into games; to sequence and spot his stuff; and to work out of trouble. When he gets closer to making his debut with the parent club, though, it will be time to hone in on the questions we’ve raised here. 

    Wicks could be a No. 2 starter. That’s an extraordinarily valuable player, and would take some pressure off the Cubs as they try to round out their roster over the next few seasons. He’s more likely to settle into the middle of the rotation, though. That, too, has substantial value. If he doesn’t succeed in adding more pitches or velocity, he can still be fine. He just needs more innings in the high minors to tighten everything up.

    Think you could write a story like this? North Side Baseball wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

    — Latest Cubs coverage from our writers
    — Recent Cubs discussion in our forums
    — Follow NSBB via Twitter, Facebook or email
    — Become a North Side Baseball Caretaker


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Featured Comments

    Great stuff.  I think there's two really interesting things with Wicks that make me consider that top of the rotation potential.  

    First is velocity.  His fastball, even averaging 92-93, grades out well by the metrics thanks to a  superlative spin/movement profile.  So he doesn't *need* to add velocity.  But you'd think they'd try right?  To this point though I believe his velo is basically where it was when he got drafted.  Did the team already try with him and fail, or have they not crossed that bridge yet?  Generally adding velo is among the first things the org does with a pitcher, it usually goes Velocity -> Movement -> Command.  Maybe they think they can't improve the velo without materially impacting the other qualities of his fastball?  But like Brozdowski slapped a 116 Stuff+ grade on his fastball already, that's the same grade Shohei Ohtani's fastball had last year. (Despite the velo Shohei's fastball is more good than great, it's the secondaries that make him a monster)

    The other is the slider.  It also gets outstanding grades, but all of the scouts who see it are pretty meh about it meh on it.  So is it an impact weapon?  Again via Brozdowski it got a 137 Stuff+ grade, which would rank it between Corbin Burnes and Dyla. Cease last year.  Or is it a tertiary pitch and Jordan's still at the drawing board on finding that 3rd pitch he can lean on?

    • Like 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I guess another thing on Wicks.  The Stuff+ grades on his pitches are reportedly 

    Fastball - 116

    Change - 108

    Slider - 137

    Curve - 82

    That's three better than average pitches, with that slider getting an elite grade.  Last year, 159 MLB pitchers threw 80+ innings (so starters and Keegan-esque swingmen).  Of those:

    34 had 3 or more pitches at 100 or better

    42 had a primo pitch with a grade of 120 or better

    19 had both

    Those 19 dudes were by and large your stars.  There were two relative duds in the group, Keegan Thompson and Kyle Bradish.  Keegan's easy enough to explain, that primo pitch is the slider he added mid-season.  He only threw it 4% of the time last year all told because of how late he added it and his nascent command of the pitch.  Bradish I'm not sure what his deal was.  I guess every list has to have a WTF guy

    • Like 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Watched Wicks’ first start and:

    - he looks yoked, maybe a little bigger than the listed 220.

    - seems like he may be throwing a little harder, say 93-94. The pitch played well, getting whiffs and soft contact, but the non-elite velo leaves him susceptible to hard contact on the pitch. It was a couple days ago but I’m pretty sure. couple possibly hard hit flyballs  were on missed pitches. Still, agreed with Berts that he doesn’t need elite velo, this is about the range more 93-95 t96-97 really, Hamels and Shields sat at after velo bumps and plays. If he’s there come summer it’s hard to see him being long for the minors 

    - he very casually mixed all his pitches into every count, willing to work in on righties with the fastball. Probably threw each to lead off a batter, can mix the shapes and velos of his pitches, hit the spots when he sees a strike to steal 

    I have some mind to say he might be the top prospect in the org, rn anyway

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Create New...