Jordan Wicks dominated high school hitters throughout his career at Conway High in Arkansas.
But the left-handed pitcher’s success at the prep level didn’t translate to professional interest. Wicks received interest from just “one or two teams” leading up to the 2018 MLB draft, he recalls. He instead attended Kansas State University after high school, joining the program in 2018-19.
In his first 2½ years at the collegiate level, Wicks has made steady improvements on the mound. As the spring season rapidly approaches, Wicks is one of the top college pitchers, possessing an outstanding fastball-changeup combination.
Pro scouts have noticed Wicks’ success, skills and overall development at Kansas State. Scouts project Wicks as one of the top college left-handed pitchers and a potential first-round pick in July’s draft.
“It’s something new for sure,” said Wicks on the draft attention. “It’s in God’s hands. I am just blessed to play baseball. My priority is our team and making it to Omaha. If I go out there and do my job and help our team win, everything will take care of itself.”
Wicks jumped into the starting rotation immediately as a freshman at Kansas State. He recorded a 3.61 ERA with 86 strikeouts and 26 walks allowed in 84 2/3 innings in 15 starts to earn Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2019.
Last spring, Wicks was off to a tremendous start. He posted a 0.35 ERA with 26 strikeouts and four walks allowed in 26 innings in four starts before the pandemic caused the season to end prematurely.
He used the downtime to add strength to his frame and refine his secondary pitches. The work helped him thrive in the Perfect Timing College League and Northwoods League last summer. Wicks allowed just two earned runs, struck out 52 batters and issued 10 walks in 34 2/3 innings between the two leagues last summer.
Wicks had a notable 2020 and wants to carry that success into this spring.
He is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound left-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, changeup, slider and curveball from a three-quarters arm slot and clean and low-effort delivery.
His fastballs sit in the low-90s with high spin rates. While his fastballs are quality offerings, scouts rave about Wicks’ changeup.
Wicks throws the best changeup in the 2021 draft class. It’s an elite offering that he throws with conviction. The low-80s offering looks like a fastball out of his hand but features tumbling action that allows it to fall out of the strike zone. The breaking action on the pitch causes hitters to swing and miss or hit it for a ground ball.
“My competitiveness is my biggest strength,” Wicks said. “I am a guy that goes out there and wants to win. I want to help my team win and that’s the bottom line. No matter the situation, I am a guy that is going to go out there and absolutely compete and go after the hitters. That is a big asset for me.”
Wicks’ curveball and slider aren’t as advanced as his fastballs and changeup. His hard breaking slider, which some scouts call a cutter, is the more effective offering. He typically uses his curveball early in the count to steal a strike, as it’s not currently a put-away pitch.
Wicks spent time refining his slider and curveball in the offseason. They still need more refinement but are pitches he hopes to show improvement with this season.
“I think just being able to use all four pitches is something I am working on,” Wicks said. “They are more of a weapon than they ever have been. Being able to mix in all four pitches and having a solid game plan is key. I also can’t get away from what got me here with my fastball and changeup. Having a good balance of my pitches will be big.”
Kansas State is an intriguing team entering this spring. The Wildcats haven’t qualified for the NCAA tournament since 2013. They also haven’t won at least 30 games since that same year. That could change this year, however.
They have a notable one-two punch in their starting rotation. Wicks and right-handed pitcher Carson Seymour are their top two arms. They have plenty of collegiate experience and are potential early-round picks for July’s draft.
Wicks believes the Wildcats were hitting their stride last spring when the season ended. He hopes the Wildcats can build on last season and make a deep postseason run this year.
“We feel like we are going to be extremely competitive in the conference and against some of the best teams in the country,” Wicks said. “We definitely have the talent to do it. It’s just about going out and doing it.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He’s interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.