The St. Louis Cardinals recently called up one of their top prospects, RHP Tink Hence, to Double-A Springfield, and his debut was as good as it gets.
I was not able to attend the game, but I reached out to @Turnin2Podcast, and he provided me with a recap of the outing. From our conversation, Tink Hence looks like the real deal. His fastball topped at 97 MPH and his change-up was sitting at 77 MPH. Having a 20 MPH spread between fastball and off-speed will be highly effective in today’s game, especially if he is pitching with elite spin rates. The final box line was 5 IP at 80 pitches, 6 hits allowed, 1 run allowed with 5 strikeouts. The only run was a mistake pitch that led to a solo shot.
That is extremely impressive for someone Hence's age at the Double-A level. But what makes this even more impressive is that @Turnin2Podcast said that Hence included lots of contact which led to some baseballs reaching the grass, but the majority never left the infield. Given the questionable pitching philosophies the organization is using, this is a dominant display looking at the overall philosophy. Thanks again to @Turnin2Podcast for giving his feedback on the outing. Side note: The new lights at Hammons Field are awesome.
There is a legitimate debate between scouting outlets about whether Hence or Masyn Winn is the top prospect in the Cardinals system. Site Expert Josh Jacobs made the point recently that Hence's ceiling as a starter, paired with the way the Cardinals have begun to let Hence go deeper into games, gives a real argument for the right-hander to be the best prospect the Cardinals have. Baseball America had this to say about Hence before the 2023 season even began.
"One of the most exciting pitchers in the minor leagues, Hence will look to take on a bigger workload in the coming seasons. If he can hold his stuff deep into starts, he could one day rank as the top pitching prospect in the game."
The second half of the Texas League is underway and we will be seeing Tink Hence pitch in Springfield until the end of the year. If you are in the 417 area, make a trip to Hammons Field and catch his starts. If you have never visited Hammons Field or the city of Springfield, now you have a reason to go. But until then, enjoy the fireworks!