Cardinals Line Up Prospect Duo For Prominent Bullpen Roles
As the Cardinals set out to reshape their bullpen this winter and, perhaps, conjure a closer, the front office couldn’t help but keep in mind two names they kept hearing.
That's because other teams wanted to trade for them. For the previous two offseasons, Jordan Hicks, a 21-year-old power righthander with present athleticism, has been a starter more familiar in trade talks than prospect rankings because of his raw tools. This past year, 23-year-old righthander Ryan Helsley joined him as a coveted piece of any trade talks.
Internally, the Cardinals see Hicks as a potential closer. Externally, Helsley draws comparisons with one of the Cardinals’ recent all-star closer, Trevor Rosenthal.
"Those (pitchers) are sort of long-term bets but they are—I can tell you this, in any type of deal we ever talk about or dream about, those names come up,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "Both guys can run it up there upper 90s. Hicks can even hit triple digits.”
Hicks, a 2015 third-rounder out of high school in Houston, spent 2017 at the Cardinals’ two Class A affiliates. He recorded a 2.74 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 105 innings while starting in 19 of 22 appearances. He has a feel for a breaking ball and is learning to use it against a fastball that he can get up to 101 mph.
Hicks holds his velocity late in starts, but the Cardinals believe he can be even sharper if unleashed as a reliever. He walked 3.9 per nine innings last season.
Helsley, a 2015 fifth-rounder from Northeastern State (Okla.), reached Triple-A Memphis at the end of 2017, but spent most of the year at high Class A Palm Beach. He struck out 137 in 132.1 innings with a 2.72 ERA and 3.3 walks per nine.
Though Hicks and Helsley have limited experience above Class A, the Cardinals have this duo in mind as they keep spots open in the bullpen to be won in spring training or later in summer.
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"Those guys are going to have a positive impact on our major league club,” Mozeliak said. "They both have electric arms. When I look at the future of our bullpen, those two names stand out.”