Hicks drew the spot start for Adam Wainwright (hamstring) and fired four scoreless innings in Sunday's 4-2 Grapefruit League loss to the Nationals, allowing one hit and recording two strikeouts.
He validated his standing as one of the organization's top prospects by neutralizing a regulars-heavy Nationals lineup, generating half his outs via groundballs and facing just one batter over the minimum, Mike Rosenbaum of MLB.com reports. The performance was an extension of an impressive spring, as Hicks had also been effective in two prior trips to the mound. Factoring in Sunday's line, the 21-year-old boasts a 2.35 ERA and has whiffed eight over 7.2 exhibition frames. He could be looking at starting the 2018 season at Double-A Springfield, and general manager John Mozeliak's January speculation that Hicks could even see some big-league bullpen work at some point in 2018 appears even more credible in the wake of his solid efforts.