5 prospects at risk of being traded by the Cardinals for a frontline starting pitcher

If the Cardinals want to swing a deal for a top starter on the trade market, some of these prospects may be on the move.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages
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Tink Hence

Tink Hence has all the tools to be an elite pitching prospect, but at the same time, the risk with him is very real.

After starting off 2023 very strong in High-A, Hence struggled in his 12 starts at the Double-A level, posting a 5.47 ERA and walking 22 batters in 54.1 innings of work. Hence really struggled with command on his off-speed pitches last year, and he really needs to get that back on track to regain his trajectory.

The other concern when it comes to Hence is his starter. He threw just 52.1 innings in 2022 and was worked up to 96 innings in 2023, and it's unclear if he'll be able to handle a starter's workload at a high level in the future. This concern is both about the amount of innings he can throw and if his body can hold up over time. The hope is that he can, but there's a world where he ends up being a bullpen arm instead.

Still, there is so much to like about Hence that even with all of those concerns, he remains a top-50 prospect in baseball and someone the Cardinals value highly. He struck out 81 batters in those 52.1 innings in 2022 and punched out an additional 99 in his 96 innings in 2023.

I think Hence only really comes into play in a potential Dylan Cease trade, especially if the Cardinals are able to avoid including Nolan Gorman or Brendan Donovan. If they do that, they'll likely need to include multiple top prospects, with one of them being an arm like Hence. Otherwise, I do not see a deal that Hence could be moved in this offseason. I do think the Cardinals would much rather move Hence than their Major League bats though, which is why I believe he's at risk of being dealt this offseason.