The Cardinals drafted right-handed starter Jordan Hicks in the third round in 2015 out of Cypress Creek High School in Houston and signed him for $600,000, slightly over slot, betting that an athletic high school pitcher with some arm strength would get better over time. He didn’t take the mound until 2016, and threw fairly well in two short-season stops -- scouts liked him more than the stat line would indicate. But this spring he has really taken off and looks primed for a big breakout in full-season ball.
Hicks hit 101 mph the outing before I saw him, but on Friday he threw all two-seamers at 94-97 with plus life, with one reading at 99 on my gun (possibly an error), with the ball seeming to explode in on right-handed batters’ hands. He paired it with a short slider at 83-85 that was at least a grade 60 pitch that day, and he flashed at least an average changeup, although he threw only a couple of them. His arm is very quick, and for as hard as he’s throwing, he doesn’t have much visible effort in his delivery.
• Right-hander Junior Fernandez looks like a power reliever, because he’s a smaller guy, maybe 6-foot and not terribly physical, with some effort to the delivery. He threw 93-97 mph for his outing, although without any movement, and paired it with a plus changeup at 83-85, working up and down with the two pitches and obviously using the change in speeds to throw hitters off. His breaking ball was fringy, and the lack of movement or plane on the fastball is a concern.