Jordan Hicks and Reynaldo López Continue To Shine as Starting Pitchers

Things could not be going better for relievers-turned-starters Reynaldo López and Jordan Hicks.

Jordan Hicks (12) of the San Francisco Giants throws live BP during the workout at Scottsdale Stadium.
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 20: Jordan Hicks (12) of the San Francisco Giants throws live BP during the workout at Scottsdale Stadium on February 20, 2024 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images)

Not all efforts to turn a relief pitcher into a starter go well. In fact, they often tend to go poorly – see the Marlins with A.J. Puk for a prime example. Injuries have also proven to be common when pitchers make the transition.

For the Braves and Giants, however, things could not be playing out better with their respective free agent acquisitions from this past offseason: Reynaldo López and Jordan Hicks.

López Performing at an All-Star Level

Over his first four starts of the 2024 campaign, López was simply brilliant, logging at least six innings each time out while surrendering only two total runs for a ridiculous 0.72 ERA. That workload was surprising, especially right out of the gate, but the 30-year-old righty was pitching highly efficiently; he required an average of just 88 pitches per game to eat up all those innings.

Predictably, López has taken a slight step back since, but he’s still provided the Braves with solid efforts each time he has taken the mound.

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López has lasted at least five frames in each of his last three starts, posting a 2.35 ERA and paving the way for a couple of Braves victories. He further solidified his emergence in a faceoff with Shota Imanaga this past Monday night, as he shut out the Cubs through five innings, giving up just two hits and two walks while striking out four.

Overall, López has thrown 40.1 innings this season and ranks among the qualifying MLB leaders in several pitching categories. His 1.34 ERA is second only to Imanaga, and López also ranks among the top 15 pitchers in batting average against (.196) and HR/9 (0.45). His 25.2% strikeout rate and 74.4% contact rate are strong marks as well.

The veteran righty is 2-1 on the year, but the Braves are 5-2 in his starts. Suffice it to say, he’s making Atlanta’s front office look quite smart.

Hicks Is Getting it Done in His Second Attempt

The Cardinals tried to turn Hicks into a starter back during the 2022 season. It did not go very well.

Before starring as a late-inning reliever in St. Louis, Hicks came up through the Cards’ system as a starter, so the thinking behind the attempted transition was understandable. However, the rocket-armed righty quickly ended up back in the bullpen, where he pitched very well in a relief role for both the Cardinals and Blue Jays last season.

However, the Giants did not think Hicks’ days as a potential rotation piece were over. The club brought him to the Bay Area on a four-year deal back in January with the sole intention of adding him to the rotation. That decision has paid off.   

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After impressing in spring training, Hicks began the regular season with five shutout innings in San Diego in which he allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out six. He would go on to start five games in April, lasting at least five frames and giving up two runs or less each time out.

A tough road matchup in Philadelphia followed by a trip to hitter-friendly Coors Field got May off to a shaky start, but he rebounded against the Dodgers this past Monday, allowing two runs over five innings to one of the league’s best offenses.

Hicks has worked a minimum of five innings in eight of nine starts so far this year. His 2.44 ERA currently stands 12th among all qualified hurlers, and his elite 56.2 GB% (4th in MLB) combined with a .220 AVG against has led to a steady 1.15 WHIP. His strikeout rate (19.9%) has not quite been what many might have expected, but Hicks can still find a whiff when he needs it most.

Hicks has still been impressive minus the regular triple-digit fastballs, and he, along with López, has been a fun one to watch on the mound in the early going of the 2024 season.