Hicks spins a gem in first spring start

March 25th, 2018

The Cardinals scratched veteran from his scheduled started on Sunday due to a hamstring injury, a concerning development with the start of the 2018 season just a week away. However, it did allow the organization a look at one of its top pitching prospects in , and the hard-throwing right-hander did not disappoint.

Making his first Grapefruit League start, Hicks, St. Louis' No. 7 prospect, worked four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two in a no-decision against the Nationals. He generated half of his outs via ground balls and faced one over the minimum in the performance.

Hicks' outing was his third of the spring for the Cardinals. He struck out two in a scoreless inning during his spring debut against Miami on Feb. 23 and then allowed two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings in his second relief appearance against the Marlins on March 21.

Altogether, the 21-year-old Hicks owns a 2.35 ERA with eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 frames this spring.

Other top prospect performances from Sunday's action:

No. 71 overall prospect (Marlins' No. 2) connected on his first Grapefruit League home run, a fifth-inning solo shot off of Astros left-hander . It marked the third hit in 18 at-bats (.167 average) on the spring for the 22-year-old outfielder.

D-backs No. 7 prospect Taylor Clarke was sharp in his first Spring Training start, allowing just two hits and one walk with four strikeouts in five scoreless innings against the Rockies. The right-hander faced two over the minimum in the outing, throwing 45 of 78 pitches for strikes.

Indians No. 7 prospect Will Benson belted a pinch-hit two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to help lead Cleveland past the Reds. The hit was the 19-year-old outfielder's second in as many at-bats this spring and his first since Feb. 28, when he went 1-for-1 with two walks.

• Marlins No. 20 prospect Riley Mahan's first spring hit went a long way, clearing the batter's eye in center field for a solo home run. The 2017 third-rounder, batting eighth and starting at second base, also reached once via a walk to finish 1-for-2. He's 1-for-6 in Grapefruit League action overall.

Orioles No. 3 prospect continued his torrid spring as he boosted his batting average to .429 with a 2-for-4 game, his third multi-hit effort in his last three starts. Overall, the 23-year-old backstop has tallied 15 hits, including two home runs and five doubles, and 10 RBIs in 18 games. (No. 8) recorded an RBI double in the contest, while (No. 25) furthered his bid for a roster spot by tossing three innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Phillies.

Rays No. 11 prospect Josh Lowe turned in a big performance off the bench for Tampa Bay, connecting on a solo home run in the fifth inning and later adding a double to finish 2-for-2 with a walk. The two extra-base hits were Lowe's first two hits of the spring and give him a .400 average (2-for-5) over parts of three games.

Also standing out for the Rays in that game were prospects (No. 21) and (No. 26), both of whom learned Sunday that they would make Tampa Bays' Opening Day roster. Yarbrough was particularly dominant as he tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts to lower his spring ERA to 2.25, while Chirinos added 2 2/3 scoreless innings of his own, allowing one hit and striking out three. The duo are expected to begin the season in the Rays' bullpen, but are both capable of assuming a spot in the team's rotation should the need arise.

White Sox No. 23 prospect delivered a three-run home run in a rout of the Brewers. It was the lone hit in the contest for the 24-year-old catcher, who is coming off a 2017 season in which he hit a career-best 21 homers in 107 games between Class A Kannapolis and Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.