2022 Dynasty Baseball: Tink Hence Has Ace Upside

by Bailey Srebnik
Tink Hence Has Ace Upside

There is a player breaking out this season who is not yet receiving "mainstream" hype, but should be.

Down in the Single-A Florida State League, the Palm Beach Cardinals have a starting pitcher who has allowed just one earned run through his first four starts.

Buckle up, as the Tink Hence hype train is getting ready to leave the station!

2022 Dynasty Baseball: Tink Hence Has Ace Upside

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Markevian "Tink" Hence was drafted 63rd overall in the second Round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the St Louis Cardinals. At the time, he was a 17-year-old, right-handed prep arm with high upside. His pro debut was postponed as there was no Minor League Baseball in 2020. He got his feet wet in 2021, debuting in the Florida Complex League.

He made eight short appearances, pitching in eight innings total. In that eight IP sample size, he had a 9.00 ERA, but his FIP and xFIP paint a much prettier picture, as they were 4.15 and 3.84 respectively. He also posted promising strikeout rates, albeit the small sample size, as he struck out 14 batters across his eight innings pitched.

There have seemingly not been many reports out there on Hence recently. FanGraphs' most recent words are from April 2021, where they say he "sits 90-94 MPH...tops out at 96 MPH." MLB Pipeline also lists his velocity in that range. From the articles I read following the 2020 MLB Draft, the consensus seemed to be that Hence had a 60-grade fastball and 60-grade curveball, but would take time to develop.

Well, the Cardinals must have been tinkering with Hence, as he has entered 2022 with a bang. Now a 19-year-old, his velocity is up significantly, his command looks sharp, and his secondaries are dominant.

I was at his season debut against the Bradenton Marauders in Jupiter on May 19th, and I was thoroughly impressed. In that game, he sat mid-90s on his fastball and sinker, and topped out at 97.5 MPH. Across three innings, he struck out five batters, allowed one hit, one walk, and one run, which was earned. It was a bit of a cheap run though, as Sergio Campana reached on a bunt single, stole second, stole third, and scored on a groundout.

Regardless, Hence was masterful. Something that was especially impressive is that he faced Bradenton's top hitter twice, and struck him out both times. I am referring to Tsung-Che Cheng, who later tripled off a different pitcher during the game. The second at-bat of Hence versus Cheng was one of my favorite sequences I have seen all season. Hence fell behind in the count 2-0 after throwing a fastball and sinker, but then went to his sinker, and got Cheng to foul off a pitch. The next pitch was a beauty, as Hence froze Cheng with a curveball for strike two. Next pitch was a fastball for ball three. On a full count, Hence went back to his devastating curveball, and Cheng went down swinging.

Hence was impressive in his debut, but he did not stop there. He pitched three shutout innings in Daytona the next week, and struck out five batters. Unfortunately, there is no Statcast data in Daytona, but the video from the game confirms his dominance. Hence's next outing came on June 1st, and I was in attendance for that one. He pitched another three innings, allowing zero earned runs, two hits, one walk, and striking out four batters. He looked just as impressive as he did prior, as his fastball got up to 97.8 MPH, and his curveball was as flashy as usual.

I think that the time has come to update his pitch grades. To me, his fastball is at least a 70, and is flirting with being 80-grade. The same rings true about his curveball. Hence seems to be putting it all together, and it is already fun to see.

His next outing came on June 8th, and something notable occurred. His velocity was even higher. On June 1st, his sinker averaged 95.7 MPH and topped out 97.8. That day, his fastball averaged 95.8 MPH, and topped out 97.2. On June 8th, his sinker averaged 96.4 MPH, and topped out 98.4. His fastball averaged 96.9 MPH, and topped out 98.6.

He was up a full tick on his fastball and sinker in this outing. This is a major development, as Hence continues to get ramped up. It will be worth monitoring if his velocity fluctuates when the Cardinals start to stretch him out, but it certainly appears the best is still yet to come.

In that June 8th game, he faced the Fighting Jasson's (AKA the Tampa Tarpons). He struck out five batters in three innings, and allowed zero runs. Sound familiar? Through his first four starts, here is Hence's pitching line:

12 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 1 ER, 19 K. That is good for an 0.75 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 14.25 K/9.

One other interesting angle to Hence's dominant start to the season are his splits. My dad and I were talking, and we remarked about how it seemed that left-handed batters looked completely lost against Hence, especially when he deployed his curveball. A

fter looking into it, the data checks out. In 22 PA versus RHB, he has struck out seven batters, while allowing a slash line of .250/.318/.350. In 24 PA versus LHB, he has struck out 12 batters, while allowing a slash line of .050/.167/.050. He has been basically as un-hittable as possible versus lefties, as the one and only hit he gave up to a lefty was an infield single.

Parting Thoughts

Hence's profile overall is exorbitantly fun. His pitch arsenal is nasty, and his sequencing fools batters regularly. When he was drafted, there were some concerns among scouting sites regarding his size, as he was 5'11", 160lb at the time. He is now 6'1",  175lb, so those concerns should be limited now. There is room for projection too, as he continues to fill out and develop.

And, although he is only facing Low-A hitters right now, he has battled against some significant prospects. His strikeout victims include Kahlil Watson, Tyler Callihan, Jose Salas, and Jasson Dominguez.

The sample size of 12 innings is of course not extensive, but you cannot ask for much more in those 12 innings. Hence has set the tone for what may very well end up being a breakout season.

He is the best pitcher I have seen this season, and one of the best pitching prospects I have ever seen. It is still very early in his development, as he only has 20 career innings to his name. I think he is a no-doubt Top 100 prospect if he keeps pitching like this once he gets deeper into games. Henceforth, Tink Hence has legitimate ace upside.

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