The Cardinals will include right-hander Jordan Hicks on their 25-man roster, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, with the move becoming official on Wednesday or Thursday morning. Righty John Brebbia will be optioned to Triple-A in a corresponding transactions once Hicks’ contract has been selected.
A third-round pick for St. Louis in the 2015 draft, Hicks has looked good in Spring Training, posting a 2.35 ERA and recording eight strikeouts against just one walk over 7 2/3 innings. Despite this strong performance, this is quite an aggressive promotion for the Cards, as Hicks will be entirely skipping both Double-A and Triple-A en route to the majors. He posted good but not dominant numbers (2.82 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 1.85 K/BB rate) over 165 2/3 innings in the minors and was a well-regarded but not elite prospect, ranked as the sixth-best minor leaguer in the Cardinals’ farm system by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.
[Updated Cardinals depth chart at Roster Resource]
Despite this lack of a standout pedigree, Hicks obviously impressed Cardinals officials during the spring and offers even more potential as a bullpen weapon. Just three of Hicks’ 34 career appearances in the minors have come as a reliever, though the 2018 Baseball America Prospect Handbook predicted that relief pitching could be Hicks’ ultimate future due to some issues with his control and command. Hicks offers an arsenal of two excellent pitches that would seem to lend itself to bullpen work, including a power curveball “that draws plus-plus grades from evaluators,” according to BA. He is best known, however, for a fastball that routinely averages in the mid-90’s, and he has touched the 102-mph threshold this spring.
This type of velocity could be even more dangerous in short bursts as a reliever, and Hicks’ inclusion on the roster adds another fascinating wrinkle to the Cardinals’ closing situation. Luke Gregerson was signed this winter to ostensibly work as the St. Louis closer, though it seems as if the team will take something of a situational approach to the ninth inning, especially since Gregerson will start the season on the DL. Tyler Lyons and Dominic Leone look like the top choices for saves right now, though there have been rumors that the Cards are still interested in free agent Greg Holland. Should Hicks impress early in the season, however, his power arm could quickly move him up the depth chart and potentially get him into the closer mix as well.