St. Louis Cardinals Spring Breakout Game #1 Recap

St. Louis Cardinals Photo Day
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On Friday, the Cardinals faced off against the Marlins in the first of two Spring Breakout games they will play this spring. The Spring Breakout series is a new prospect showcase in Spring Training, where MLB teams go head-to-head with their top prospects. The Cardinals lost to the Marlins 3-2, but there were 4 prospect performances I'd like to highlight from the game.

1. RHP Tink Hence

Tink Hence has looked remarkable so far this spring. Entering his Spring Breakout start, he pitched four shutout innings with six strikeouts across two games in MLB Spring Training. Hence started the Cardinals' inaugural Spring Breakout game and pitched two scoreless innings. He struck out three and induced five swings and misses on eleven swings.

A couple of things stood out to me when comparing his pitch data from this game to last year. First, he had more run on his fastball. Dating back to 2022, Hence relied on a ride-run heater, but he cut close to 5 inches of arm-side run from the pitch last year. Hence threw a couple of fastballs that profiled like his heater from 2023, but most had 2022 levels of ride and run. These could very well be two distinct fastballs, but Baseball Savant classified them all as four-seam fastballs. Another thing that caught my eye was Hence's slider.

Last year, he averaged around 7-8 inches of the sweep, but on Friday, it was a more gyro-heavy pitch with only 1.7 inches of the sweep. The velocity on the pitch was also harder, sitting at 86-87 mph, a couple of mph higher than last year when he averaged 84.