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Cubs select LHP Jordan Wicks from Kansas State in 1st Round

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The tall lefty has one of the best changeups in college baseball.

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Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With the 21st pick of the first round of the MLB Draft, the Chicago Cubs selected left-handed pitcher Jordan Wicks of Kansas State.

Wicks is a tall (6’3”, 220 lbs.) left-handed pitcher whom scouts believe will have no trouble standing up to the rigors of being a starting pitcher. He’s a three-year starter at Kansas State and he’s the first ever first-round pick from that program. In the 34 starts he made in college, he posted a 3.24 ERA despite playing in a hitter-friendly park and with a subpar defensive team behind him. He has demonstrated good control in college, walking just 58 batters over 203 innings over three years. (Actually, 2 14 years because of 2020.) He struck out 230 batters in that time.

Wicks is known as a changeup specialist, with a change that already rates as a 70 on the 20 to 80 scale. His fastball is not as impressive, sitting at 92-93 mph, but he has touched 95 and there is some hope that he can sit closer to 95 with a little more work. In any case, his fastball plays a lot faster thanks to his deception and batters having to worry about that changeup.

Baseball America ranked Wicks as the 13th-best player in the draft. In their write up on Wicks, they wrote:

With arguably the best changeup in the draft class, intriguing fastball metrics and a track record of performance, Wicks could easily become Kansas State’s first-ever first-rounder, and the first lefthander off the board in July. The solidly-built, 6-foot-3, 220-pound southpaw has been up to 95 mph in all of his outings this year for the Wildcats, regularly sitting 92-93 with run, cut, and ride to his fastball that allows for incredible deception and disappearing action. His low-80s changeup is his most lethal weapon, and the Arkansas native relies on the plus-plus offering as much as any guy with a 70-grade secondary would. Wicks has improved his slider from being fringe-average at best to flashing plus throughout the 2021 season, and he has a curveball in the upper 70s to round out his repertoire.

MLB Pipeline ranked him as the 16th-best prospect in the draft and wrote of him:

Wicks has the best changeup in the Draft, a low-80s weapon with tumble and depth that he sells with deceptive arm speed, earning plus-plus grades from some evaluators. He sets it up with a fastball that has added about 5 mph since high school, now sitting at 90-93 mph and hitting 95 with high spin rates that give it riding action. He has improved his low-80s slider to the point where it’s now a solid offering, and he also can morph it into a harder cutter and mix in an upper-70s curveball.

They also praised him for his command and his competitiveness on the mound.

The Athletic’s Keith Law also ranked him as the 13th best and described him thusly:

Wicks is the “safe” college lefty, with a plus-plus changeup and excellent feel to pitch, working to both sides of the plate with the fastball, although he’s been hit a little bit more than you’d like this spring and the breaking ball is a clear third pitch for him.

Kiley McDaniel of ESPN ranked Wicks as the 22nd-best eligible draftee:

Steady college lefty with an average fastball/slider, but above-average command and a ridiculous plus-plus changeup along with standout makeup.

R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports ranked him 15th and wrote:

One scout described Wicks as a “less-athletic Marco Gonzales” during the preseason. It fits. Wicks is a command-and-changeup left-hander who is held as a safe, no-frills selection. His low-90s fastball has good carry and his cambio is one of the best in the class. Factor in above-average control, and you have the makings of at least a back-end starter.

My personal take on Wicks is that he’s potentially a solid mid-rotation starter who could move through the minor leagues fast. He’s a fairly polished pitcher and could be in the majors as soon as 2022, although 2023 is more likely. The Cubs also have had a lot of success with pitchers who throw plus-plus changeups (Kyle Hendricks) and it would be nice to have a left-handed version of that.

So let’s welcome Jordan Wicks as the newest member of the Cubs family and hope that he has a long and successful career in Chicago.

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