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Ventura, California —— At the top of this post, watch our scouting video of Ventura College freshman right-handed pitcher Jackson Hickert, taken from an outing he had two weeks ago against Western State Conference opponent Cuesta College.

Jackson Hickert scouting report notes

There’s nothing in Jackson Hickert‘s repertoire that doesn’t move.

A lot.

A freshman righty from nearby Newbury Park (although he grew up in the Midwest), Hickert stands out to me as a guy who is really going to come into his own over the next couple years. That’s because his stuff is filthy; a fastball that runs and sinks, combined with a sinking changeup that has the makings of being a plus pitch, and a slurve/slider with great velocity differential from the fastball while keeping great depth within the strike zone.

Hickert can run the ball up to the low 90s, according to Ventura’s top assistant Steven Hardesty, but (and I love this quote) Hardesty termed it “a drunk 92 [mph]” — meaning, in other words, things go a little haywire when Hickert tries to max out. That makes sense when you see the hard arm-side run Hickert gets (watch it in the video above), because if he over-does it too much, or leaves pitches up in the zone, the ball flattens out and he gets hit. When he’s down at the knees, and running it anywhere from 84-88 mph right now, he’s money. As he ages and puts on arm strength, then, that working velocity band will increase and I think in two or three years’ time you’ll be watching a special pitcher with a nasty 92-94 mph power sinker.

Paired with the fastball are a changeup and a slurve; the changeup is Hickert’s favorite pitch, and the slurve might be mine. It’s slow out of the hand (70-73 mph), but Hickert sells the breaking pitch extremely well with good arm action and what I assume from my observation is already an above-average spin rate. In that sense, Hickert reminds me a bit of teammate Taylor Campos (read Campos’ full scouting report here); both pitchers work below max-fastball velocity and survive by selling very convincing off-speed pitches that give hitters fits.

In the at-bat videos we’re going to break down below, you’ll get a better idea of how Hickert uses his lively stuff, but for now, know this: the size is there, the pieces are there, the natural stuff is within him, and when Jackson Hickert gets stronger and more experienced, he’s going to be a force. I like him out of the bullpen because he has a natural high-motor intensity and seems to relish the role right now. However, his stuff is lively enough to undoubtedly warrant a shot in Ventura’s rotation next year, and then at a four-year school—and perhaps professional baseball—beyond that.


Jackson Hickert scouting report: 140 characters or less

Everything Hickert throws moves; as he adds velocity to his natural run & sink, he’ll be flat-out nasty with two legit strikeout pitches.


Jackson Hickert scouting report video + GIFs

Jackson Hickert video vs. Cuesta College’s Jeff Wilson:

This at-bat is an up-and-down endeavor. I believe the first pitch is a changeup; it registered ten miles an hour lower than the fastball and obviously wasn’t the slurve, since you can see the undeniable arm-side run on it. Hickert simply didn’t get on top of it, wasted it, and then came back with a 1-0 fastball that had life to it but missed well down and away off the plate.

Now, he’s in a hole.

He came back with two straight fastballs, both up in the zone, and neither located well. But Hickert, with more natural movement than most, can get away with middle-middle pitches more often than other pitchers. Jeff Wilson didn’t hit either one squarely, fouled off both, and suddenly the count evens to 2-2 because of Hickert’s lively stuff even despite less-than-ideal command.

At that point, on 2-2, Hickert came back with the best breaking ball I’ve seen him throw… for ball three.

Honestly, I have no idea where it missed. Wilson got away with one.

Actually, that serves as a good lesson for Hickert; he didn’t get a call and the very next pitch, he grooved a fastball. Wilson didn’t miss this one like he did the first two. Even with as much natural movement as Hickert gets, you can only go middle-middle once or twice before the hitter catches on.

Now, it’s up to Hickert to miss some bats if he wants to work out of the inning free and clear.


Jackson Hickert video vs. Cuesta College’s Robbie Silva:

Ventura must have had a scouting report on Robbie Silva here, because Hickert pitches him backwards with three straight breaking balls. The first two are pretty good, including one called strike and one roll-over foul ball, while the third—in an 0-2 count, remember—runs wide glove-side, but shows the camera a good angle of the late downward-breaking action on the pitch.

Hickert finishes the backwards-pitched at-bat on the 1-2 count with an absolutely filthy two-seam fastball that had a little sink and a ton of run. You can pinpoint the moment Silva gave up on the pitch, only to have it run right back over the plate before he could react. Plus, the pitch (which sat 85-87 mph in this outing) must look much faster from Silva’s perspective after three straight slurves in the low 70s to start the at-bat.

With a runner on second in a close game, Hickert bears down and his stuff comes out to play.



Jackson Hickert video vs. Cuesta College’s Hunter Reade:

If/when a pitcher like Hickert does struggle, it’s going to be from lack of pinpoint command of their rapidly-moving stuff. Here’s another at-bat where Hickert immediately fell into an 2-0 hole, and thus another situation where he’s forced to bring himself back after a lack of execution on the first two pitches against Hunter Reade. Hickert does it, though, and he starts by throwing as good a 2-0 fastball as I’ve seen at this level. It’s not too fine for the count, sitting low middle rather than to a corner, and he stays on top of it, throwing it knee-high, down hill, and sinking. That’s a tough 2-0 pitch to hit, and Reade can only foul it off.

On 2-1, Hickert does something interesting: he goes hard up and in. That completely changes Reade’s eye level and ties up the poor Cuesta College hitter who had been diving in a little bit to reach sinking stuff on the outside corner, and it results in a half-thought-out check swing that evens the count at 2-2.

From there, Hickert goes for the old classic: follow hard up-and-in stuff with a devastating low-and-away off-speed offering. Here, it’s the changeup, which absolutely drops off the table about 15 feet from home plate. Strike three.

Filthy, again.


So there you have it—that’s about what you should know about Jackson Hickert right now. I really, really like his stuff. He’s got a ton to work on, of course; he needs to add velocity. His slurve needs more bite. He must miss better (i.e., he can’t go down 2-0 to hitters late in close games with pitches that aren’t at least borderline). All those things are fixable, of course, and Hickert will do so this year, next year, and beyond. For that reason, I look forward to seeing what he does for Ventura next spring, and then wherever he lands beyond that. He has the size, he’s an incredibly intense competitor, and he has all the indications that he could turn into something truly special pretty soon.

It’s tough to read the future of a 19-year-old kid who is only just starting his college career, but I’ve gotta say: I watch more minor league baseball than almost anybody, and when I see the way Hickert carries himself on the field combined with the repertoire already has, I see a minor leaguer. Long road ahead, of course. But I think this would be a guy to bookmark and check up on three years from now.

We’ll have more on Hickert either this afternoon or tomorrow morning: a feature-length interview with the pitcher about his stuff and work for Ventura College this year.

Oh, and if you want to see the full Jackson Hickert video and you didn’t do it at the top of the post, here it is:


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In this Jackson Hickert scouting report:

Western State Conference | Ventura College | Cuesta College | Jackson Hickert

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Bobby DeMuro

Bobby DeMuro is the founder of Baseball Census, the author of We Is Blaze, (obviously) a fan of minor league baseball, and an unlikely expert on the animated classic TV show King Of The Hill. For more on Bobby and the personal, human side of this site, follow him on Twitter and Facebook: @BobbyDeMuro.

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