#1 - Tink Hence
Ranking on Cardinals' top prospect lists:
Baseball America: #2 (#34 overall)
MLB.com: #3 (#59 overall)
Birds on the Black: #4 (2.c)
Data Driven: #2
Tink Hence was a part of that elite 2020 Draft Class with Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn, selected at #63 overall, and now has the chance to be one of the best pitching prospects in the game. Don't believe me? Take it from Baseball America.
""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.""- Baseball America
They already have Hence as the #34 overall prospect in all of baseball, and he's still a guy who hasn't been fully unleashed to pitch deeper into games. He was finally allowed to go five innings twice in the month of June so far, something that will be key to his future as a starter.
Everyone is high on Hence' stuff, with Baseball America grading his fastball and curveball as plus pitches and his slider and changeup as above average, and MLB.com giving his fastball and curveball plus grades with his slider and changeup being above average.
Across 9 games in 2023, Hence is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 35 SO over 35 innings at High-A Peoria. He is still only 20 years old, making him two years younger than Hjerpe and three years younger than Graceffo. Hence has tantalizing talent, is already producing results with it, and cannot even legally buy a drink yet. See why there is hype around him?
As you can see in the video above, Hence even got a chance to pitch in Spring Training games this year, allowing just 1 run and 3 hits in his 3.1 innings of work while striking out 5 batters. He did walk 5 guys though, something he's struggled a bit with in his professional career but has improved greatly this past year.
Hence has legit ace potential, and should have a chance to make an impact in St. Louis by the end of the 2024 season. I'd like to say he could be starting next year, but with how slow they've been with him to this point, I feel like he's more likely a candidate in 2025. I sure hope it's sooner though, as Hence is a special talent.