We could see as many as 20 pitchers go in the first round of the MLB amateur draft in July. Jordan Wicks will most certainly be the first left-hander taken. He is also going to be the first pitcher ever out of Kansas State to be selected in the first three rounds. Let’s take a look at the Wildcat.
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Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
Weight: 220 lbs.
2019: 6-3, 3.61 ERA, 86 Ks in 84.2 IP
2020: 5-0, 0.39 ERA, 55 Ks in 46 IP (NCAA & Summer)
2021: 5-2, 3.48 ERA, 96 Ks in 72.1 IP
Jordan Wicks was a polished pitcher starting in his freshman year at Kansas State. That season he had a seven percent walk rate and struck out just over a batter per inning. For his performance, he was named the Freshman of the Year in the Big 12. He’s gotten even better since then and it would be shocking to me if he falls out of the top 20 picks.
Let’s go right to the changeup. It is the best one in the draft and may be the best pitch in the draft overall. Wicks has incredible feel for it and spins it at a sub-1,600 rpm. What also makes this a devastating pitch is that Wicks mirrors his two-seam fastball well. Out of his hand, the pitch has the same look as his fastball with similar seam rotation. Wicks also uses the same arm slot and arm speed. That combination, along with the fact that his changeup basically hits a wall when it gets to the plate, makes it nearly impossible for a hitter to differentiate the two-seamer from the change.
Aside from his two-seam fastball which has some sink to it, Wicks has a four-seamer. He throws it at the top of the zone with very good ride sitting at 90-93 mph and can hit 95. The big lefty commands both of his fastballs and his changeup very well and will throw them in any count. He has a high baseball IQ and understands how to pitch. The Wildcat ace has plenty of experience over the past three years. Between college and a year in Rockford over the summer, Wicks started 35 games. He’s thrown 203 innings with a 2.84 ERA, 21.4 percent K-BB rate, and has only allowed 14 home runs.
His delivery is smooth and he tunnels his pitches well. Wicks has excellent leg drive and his follow-through is solid, bending his back and limiting the recoil on his shoulder. Along with his 6-foot-3 frame, he projects to be a workhorse for years to come.
His slider and curveball are both works in progress. Right now, his curve is more of a show-me pitch. It has a long loop to it and Wicks is working on spinning it more and having more of a feel for Uncle Charlie as he tightens it up. The slider is very cutter-ish right now as well. Although he has started to throw it a bit harder at around 85 mph, it doesn’t have as much sweep as it does sharp bite into righties. If he can bring either one of these pitches to above-average, the kid from Kansas State could be an ace in the majors.
Pro Comparison: Hyun Jin Ryu
The pitch mix for Ryu and Wicks is similar. The Toronto ace relies mostly on his changeup, cutter, and fastball. Wicks has a similar mix and if he can turn his slider into a cutter hybrid, he will have success. The Kansas State southpaw could be even better than Ryu which is saying a lot considering The Blue Jay lefty has a career 2.97 ERA in over 800 major league innings.
Draft Projection: Round 1, Pick 14, San Francisco Giants
The Giants minor league system is weak when it comes to pitching, especially at the upper levels. Wicks would be their top pitcher on the farm from day one. San Francisco also likes their lefties as their top two pitchers right now, Seth Corry and Kyle Harrison, are both southpaws. It wouldn’t surprise me if Wicks went top 10 to the Los Angeles Angels at 9 or the New York Mets at 10 but there are other pitchers who project well and blow up the radar gun. While Wicks doesn’t, he is the most advanced pitcher in the draft not named Jack Leiter, and even that is arguable.
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