Tink Hence has the highest ceiling among pitchers in the St. Louis Cardinals system. A top 100 prospect with a 50 FV, the 20-year-old right-hander has just 60.1 professional innings under his belt — 68.2 if you count his brief stint in the Arizona Fall League — but that has been enough to turn heads. Displaying an electric array of pitches, the lanky Pine Bluff, Arkansas native has fanned 104 batters and allowed just 44 hits and 22 walks.
Hence, whose given first name is Markevian, discussed his power repertoire and his approach to pitching during his time in the AFL.
David Laurila: Tell about yourself as pitcher. How do you go about your craft?
Tink Hence: “I just go out and do what I do. I know how my my fastball plays, and I know how my off-speed plays off my fastball. I really don’t try to set it all up with the analytical stuff. When I go out there, it’s easier to just play as opposed to thinking, ‘OK, if I throw it there, it does that’ or if I’m trying to make something break more. I just let it come.”
Laurila: How does your stuff play?
Hence: “I throw a four-seamer, a curveball, a changeup, and a slider. I feel like my stuff plays well when I, as they say, ’let it eat.’ My changeup works well off my fastball, and whenever I can get the curveball up… it’s like a buckle piece. I feel like my curveball is more of my strike pitch, and my slider is like my strikeout pitch. My curveball is more north-south, and when they guess fastball they take it for a strike.”
Laurila: Where is your velocity?
Hence: “My fastball probably sits 95–97 [mph]. My curve is around the 75–77 range. With my slider, you’ll see more of the 81–84 range. The changeup, during the season it kind of was slow, but I’m working on getting it around 86–87. I’m working on it a lot here [in the AFL].”
Laurila: What kind of movement do you get on your four-seamer?
Hence: “Sometimes when I really get behind it and throw it around the chest area, it will just go up. Then sometimes if I get on top of it, it will sink down. It can be two fastballs sometimes.”
Laurila: Is that by intent or does it just happen?
Hence: “Really, it’s just… so, if I’m going more inside, I try to get more down into it, so I can get the inside. That’s because I know my ball runs a lot whenever I get on top of it.”
Laurila: That’s arm-side, correct? It doesn’t cut.
Hence: “Yes. But it just depends. I get some accidental cut in there every once in a when I’m trying to throw it out. The thing with my fastball, they say I can go anywhere I want with it. I can go away. I can go in. I can go low. I can go high. They’re kind of saying for a strikeout pitch, maybe I could throw the high fastball. If I want to get ground balls, I can go inside. That’s usually what I think, in my mind.”
Laurila: What you consider to be your best pitch?
Hence: “I’ve got to go with the fastball, but I feel like my changeup is coming along pretty well. Coming out of high school, I was big curveball/slider. Since I’ve got to pro ball, the changeup has slowly became one of my most comfortable pitches.“
Laurila: Is it your second-best pitch?
Hence: “I think so, yes.”
Laurila: How do you throw your changeup?
Hence: “It’s a [four-seam] circle-change grip, and I pronate it. I feel that the extension I get on it helps me set up my fastball… to get my arm back in the place of my fastball. I feel like that’s what makes it play so well.”
Laurila: Is there anything unique or otherwise notable about your curveball or your slider?
Hence: “Not really. I plan on in the offseason kind of trying to get more of a 12–6 curve, but right now it’s just my curveball. I don’t spike it or anything like that.”
Laurila: One last question: Is pitching fun?
Hence: “I love it. I mean, just being out there, controlling the game. Like, we’ve got the pitch clock, but usually you take as much time as you need, think about what you’re doing, and make a good pitch. So it’s fun for me, because I like to think and challenge myself. Just being out there facing hitters… some don’t like the fastball, some of them can’t hit the off-speed, so you’re figuring them out. That’s fun. Getting them to not hit your pitches is fun.”