When it comes to collegiate arms in the 2021 MLB Draft, Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker stand out most. Still, there are plenty of quality arms later in the middle of the first round of the draft. One such name is LHP Jordan Wicks. Wicks will likely be the first Kansas State pitcher ever drafted in the first three rounds of the MLB Draft come July.
Although Wicks doesn’t get the headlines like Leiter or Rocker, he will be a great addition to any farm system. Currently, he is MLB.com’s 16th-best prospect. He features a four-pitch mix and over-the-top delivery. His 6’3, 220 pound frame allows him to repeat his mechanics with ease while throwing with little effort.
Wicks has succeeded every year at Kansas State. In 2019, he won the Big 12 Rookie of the Year, and he followed that up by allowing one run in four starts during the abbreviated 2020 season. Through 92 1/3 innings pitched in 2021, his ERA sits at 3.70, but he is one of the best strikeouts pitchers in the NCAA, with a rate of 11.5 K/9.
The clear strength for Jordan Wicks is his changeup. Scouts grade the pitch a 65/80, and it is arguable the best changeup in the entire draft. It is a big reason why he is the best left-handed pitcher in the draft. The pitch sits in the low-80 mph range with good depth and tumble. Additionally, he does a good job of keeping the same arm speed on the pith as his fast ball, helping to sell the pitch.
Naturally, he sets up his changeup with his fastball, which can touch 95 mph. Since high school, he has seen an uptick of 5 mph and the pitch sits 90-93 mph. Although he doesn’t possess overpowering velocity, scouts still grade the fastball a 55/80 because it generates good spin and has riding life to it.
He can also offer a slider that he has improved to the point where it is a solid third pitch. He can manipulate the break on the slider and turn it into a harder cutter to keep hitters from barreling up balls. Wicks also controls all of his pitches very well, and he fills the strike zone on both sides of the plate. This is evident by his career 3.97 K/BB ratio across 34 starts with Kansas State.
The weakest aspect of his game is his curveball. Scouts grade the pitch as a 45/80 so it is still a work in progress. The pitch is a high-70 mph offering. Wicks doesn’t need to develop the curveball into a lethal weapon given the caliber of his fastball-changeup combination, but if he can improve on the pitch, he will have four quality-at-worst options with which to fool MLB hitters.
Scouts love the competitiveness and inventiveness that Wicks offers, and some comp him to Reid Detmers, the Los Angeles Angels prospect drafted 10th overall in 2020. In terms of size and pitch mix, Wicks comps favorably to Baltimore Orioles pitcher John Means. Both pitchers are 6’3 although Means carries around 15 more pounds than Wicks does.
Like Wicks, Means has a great changeup, which he displayed when he struck out 12 and no-hit the Seattle Mariners on May 5th. Means throws the pitch 28.4% of the time after setting batters up with the fastball on 51.4% of his pitches. In terms of velocity, the two pitchers also match up well. Means’s fastball velocity usually sits in the 92 mph although he did average 93.8 mph in the abbreviated 2020 season. As for the changeup, Means sits in the low-80 mph range, as does Wicks.
Whichever team drafts Wicks is getting a complete package. Wicks knows how to pitch, he is mechanically sound, he offers three quality pitches.
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