Predicting which St. Louis Cardinals' prospects will make their debut in 2023
Perhaps the fastest riser in the Cardinals organization this last year in terms of prospect status, Tink Hence is now seen around baseball as a potential front-line starter. Even so, there is still a lot of room to develop into that kind of player.
There are concerns Hence's size, and if his body can handle that workload, both over the course of a season and going deep into ball games. Like Walker and Winn, Hence is just 20 years old, so there is no rush to get him to St. Louis. Even so, you can't help but get excited about the talent Hence is already flashing in big league camp.
During his outing, Hence's fastball averaged 96.7 MPH and he displayed nasty off-speed pitches as well, showing why he had a crazy high 13.9 SO/9 during his 2022 season. While it's just one outing, it would be easy to see why the Cardinals may want to use him in a relief role this coming season with his elite stuff.
I don't see Hence joining the Cardinals' bullpen this season, and I really don't see a way he makes the rotation either. The Cardinals view Hence as a potential ace and need to keep him on a development plan that maximizes that potential, rather than any short-term reward of having him in their bullpen. Come October though, Hence could make a quick feature in their bullpen. But with them looking to slowly build up his endurance, I doubt they'd have him throwing that late into the season.