The Cubs used their first pick in the 2021 MLB draft on Jordan Wicks, a lefty pitcher out of Kansas State University. Wicks entered the season as the top college left-hander and backed that ranking up throughout the 2021 season. While his 3.70 ERA may not scream “ace pitcher,” Wicks racked up 118 strikeouts in only 92.1 innings (11.5 K/9, 4.21 K/BB) for the Wildcats. Likened to Los Angeles Angels prospect Reid Detmers (drafted 10th overall in 2020), scouts feel Wicks is an advanced college arm who showcases a truly elite pitch, his changeup.
“The Complete Package”
If fans were left wanting for a high-upside play at pick 21, the Cubs were ecstatic that Wicks was available when they were on the clock. Cubs VP of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz said Wicks ranked “within the top 10 of their internal draft board” and that they were surprised the lefty was still available when they picked at No. 21.
Going even further, Kantrovitz described Wicks as “the complete package” in terms of projection as an MLB starter.
Via Kantrovitz: Wicks was in the Cubs' first 10 picks on their board. Was surprised the lefty was still available when No. 21 came around.
Calls Wicks "the complete package" to be an MLB starter.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 12, 2021
The following averages were provided to me by scouts or are publicly available:
Fastball: 2400-2500 rpm
Slider: 2300-2450 rpm
Changeup: <1600 rpm
What stands out with Wicks is an incredible ability to”kill spin.” In other words, his above-average fastball spin and average slider spin become even more effective when hitters also have to deal with trying to hit his changeup, which has much less spin. Wicks should be a quick-moving player using his plus-plus changeup and impressive sinker to rip through lineups in a sticky-free world of pitching.
See the video below for more information via PitchAI, which is essentially a biomechanics lab in your phone. According to their readings, Wicks had the second-most scapular retraction and max external rotation among pitchers they studied for the draft. Even if you don’t know what that means, ranking that highly is very good.
The bigger takeaway per PitchAI is that signs point to Wicks having excellent shoulder mobility.
Jordan Wicks is heading to the North Side! The @Cubs get a pitcher who showed the second most scap retraction in our draft group, along with the second most MER. All signs pointing to great shoulder mobility. pic.twitter.com/b2nQf1gxnw
— ProPlayAI (@proplayai) July 12, 2021
Rankings and scouting reports
Prospects Live – 17th
“Most believe he’s the best lefty in the class, and he’s just about as polished as they come. He may not have top of the rotation upside, but with Wicks you’re selecting the floor of a Low-3/High-4 rotation arm that should move quickly to the big leagues.”
MLB Pipeline – 16th
“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. ”
Baseball America – 13th
“Wicks is a high-floor lefthanded strike-thrower with a history of college performance, and there just aren’t many like him in the draft class. Though he’s not a flamethrower, he can’t be labeled a ‘vanilla stuff’ pitcher with his standout changeup and the fact that his fastball plays like an invisiball.”
Immediate reaction favorite picks of day 1:
1. Kahlil Watson (16, Marlins)
2. Ty Madden (32, Tigers)
3. Jordan Wicks (21, Cubs)
What about you guys? #MLBDraft
— Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) July 12, 2021
Round 2 and Beyond
The 2021 draft is far more than just the first round and after landing a player with one of the highest floors in the draft, the Cubs are in a great position to nab high-upside talent going forward. Available options in the second round could be prep outfielders Jackson Linn or Tyler Whitaker, as well as high school shortstop James Triantos. If the Cubs wanted to continue with another safe college performer, Conner Norby out of East Carolina boasts the best hit tool in the class.