Prospect Report: Cardinals' Hence Makes Short, Sweet AFL Debut
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Though it lasted just eight pitches, Tink Hence's Arizona Fall League debut hinted at the massive potential he has and the talent he could one day bring to the Cardinals' rotation.
His last official outing had come nearly a month prior, in the Florida State League Championship Series, so his command was understandably a touch off, especially with his fastball. The heater sat between 96-97 mph and he mixed in a pair of sweepier sliders in the 82-83 mph range. The results were two groundouts to second and a flyout to left field.
Hence, whom the Cardinals selected in the second supplemental round of the 2020 draft, pitched just 52.1 innings this past season, his first full year as a pro. He struck out 81 and walked just 15 in that time. He got swinging strikes at a rate of 16.3%.
"I always set high expectations for myself," Hence said. "I was just taking it outing by outing to see what I could do to be a complete pitcher."
To that end, Hence is working in Arizona on a variety of goals. One of those is to continue working to make his slider and curveball more distinct from one another. They have a tendency to blend at times, and the quality of each isn't always uniform.
"If I throw one bad curveball," Hence said, "the next one should be how I want it. That's where I'm trying to get the consistency ... In the regular season in Low-A, I was really just relying on my fastball. Here, I know I need to have two or three (pitches) in the zone, and I need to be able to control them.
Hence had both breaking balls in high school but was more slider-heavy on game days. He started throwing the curveball more often because the data showed him that the pitch, when it breaks more vertically, played particularly well off of his fastball, which has late life when thrown up in the zone and sinking action when thrown lower.
Hence threw just eight pitches on Thursday, but they provided a brief window into a pitcher with sky-high upside.
Jackson Merrill, SS, Padres: In the first week of the season, Merrill has stood out as part of the Fall League's clear upper echelon of offensive prospects. Just as was the case in spring training and the scant action he saw in the regular season, the 19-year-old has used a picturesque lefthanded swing to produce a tantalizing blend of contact and impact. On Thursday, Merrill collected three singles in five at-bats during Peoria's win over Glendale. He's now 6-for-16 with a triple and more walks (three) than strikeouts (two).
Luisangel Acuña, SS, Rangers: The Rangers have a cachet of intriguing middle-infield prospects, and Acuña, still just 20 years old, is doing his best to vault to the front of that group. Acuña played just 91 games during the regular season because of an injury suffered in his first at-bat of the season. Now healthy, he looks strong, powerful and ready to provide plenty of thump. On Thursday, Acuña went deep for the second straight day. This time, it was a loud blast to left-center at Salt River Fields, where his Surprise club held off the Rafters. He's 5-for-13 to start the AFL with just one strikeout in 13 plate appearances.
Tyler Gentry, OF, Royals: Gentry was a pop-up prospect for Kansas City this season. The 23-year-old Alabama alum showed plate discipline and power while advancing to Double-A Arkansas. By season's end, he'd produced a .964 OPS with 22 doubles and 21 home runs. On Thursday, he swatted his first two home runs of the Fall League, joining Blue Jays prospect Addison Barger as the only players in the AFL with a multi-homer game.
|WIN||#0||Je'Von Ward, OF||4||1||1||2||0.286||2B (2), BB (2), SB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Noelvi Marte, SS||4||1||0||0||0.200||BB (1), SB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Austin Martin, SS||2||1||1||1||0.167||BB (2), SB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Edouard Julien, 2B||3||1||1||0||0.222||2 BB (5), SB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Terrell Tatum, OF||5||0||2||1||0.357||SB (2),|
|WIN||#0||Zavier Warren, C||4||0||0||0||0.333||BB (2),|
|WIN||#0||Adam Hackenberg, C||4||1||1||2||0.167||BB (3),|
|WIN||#0||Rece Hinds, SS||5||2||2||1||0.333||2B (3),|
|WIN||#0||Drew Millas, C||5||1||3||4||0.333||2B (1), HR (1),|
|WIN||#0||Jackson Merrill, SS||5||1||3||0||0.375|
|WIN||#0||Robert Perez, 1B||4||0||1||1||0.167||BB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Tirso Ornelas, LF||5||1||2||0||0.222||2B (1),|
|WIN||#0||Luke Ritter, 2B||3||0||0||1||0.000|
|WIN||#0||Kevin Kendall, SS||4||2||2||2||0.462||HR (1), BB (2),|
|WIN||#0||Spencer Packard, OF||2||2||0||0||0.250||3 BB (6),|
|WIN||#0||Tyler Gentry, OF||4||2||2||3||0.250||2 HR (2),|
|WIN||#0||Luisangel Acuna, SS||3||2||2||1||0.385||HR (2), SB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Scott Schreiber, LF||3||0||0||1||0.182|
|WIN||#0||John Rave, OF||3||1||1||1||0.333||3B (1), BB (2),|
|WIN||#0||Cody Freeman, C||3||1||0||0||0.333||BB (2),|
|WIN||#0||Nick Gonzales, 2B||2||1||2||2||0.455||2B (1), 2 BB (2), SB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Zach Daniels, LF||4||0||1||0||0.125|
|WIN||#0||Zach Britton, RF||3||0||1||2||0.500|
|WIN||#0||Jordan Lawlar, SS||4||1||0||0||0.300|
|WIN||#0||Jordan Walker, 3B||4||0||0||0||0.125|
|WIN||#0||Grant Lavigne, 1B||4||1||2||1||0.556||2B (3),|
|WIN||#0||Tanner Morris, SS||3||0||2||0||0.333|
|WIN||#0||Pedro Pages, C||4||1||2||2||0.286||2B (1), HR (1),|
|WIN||#0||Zac Veen, OF||2||1||1||0||0.667||2 BB (4), SB (4),|
|WIN||#0||Colt Keith, 3B||2||2||1||0||0.500||2 BB (4), SB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Masyn Winn, SS||4||0||0||0||0.125|
|WIN||#0||Mason Auer, OF||4||2||1||0||0.333||SB (3),|
|WIN||#0||Zack Gelof, SS||4||0||0||0||0.091||E (1),|
|WIN||#0||Blake Hunt, C||3||0||1||0||0.286||E (1),|
|WIN||#0||Denzel Clarke, OF||3||0||0||0||0.000||SB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Jasson Dominguez, CF||2||0||1||1||0.200||BB (2), SB (1),|
|WIN||#0||Jose Salas, SS||4||0||1||0||0.167||CS (1),|
|WIN||#0||Owen Caissie, OF||4||0||0||0||0.125|
|WIN||#0||Matt Mervis, 1B||4||0||0||0||0.143|
|WIN||#0||Justyn-Henry Malloy, 1B||2||0||0||0||0.250||2 BB (6),|
|WIN||#0||Nick Yorke, IF||4||2||2||0||0.357||2 2B (2), BB (5), E (1),|
|WIN||#0||Cal Conley, SS||4||0||1||0||0.231||2B (3), E (2),|
|WIN||#0||Stephen Scott, 3B||4||1||0||0||0.250|
|WIN||#0||Wilyer Abreu, RF||3||0||1||3||0.091|
|WIN||#0||Heston Kjerstad, OF||4||0||1||0||0.368|
|WIN||#0||Luis Matos, OF||4||1||1||0||0.333|
|WIN||#0||Cesar Prieto, SS||4||0||1||1||0.222|
|WIN||#0||Niko Kavadas, 1B||3||1||1||1||0.200||BB (4), E (1),|
|CHC||WIN||#0||BJ Murray, 3B||3||0||0||0||0.000|
|HOU||WIN||#0||J.C. Correa, SS||3||0||0||0||0.000||BB (1),|
|WAS||WIN||#0||Darren Baker, 2B||5||1||1||0||0.200||E (1),|
12 Breakout Pitching Prospects For The 2022 Season
A dozen pitchers who broke out during the 2022 season.
|WIN||#0||Lane Ramsey, RHP||0.1||2||2||2||2||1||13.50||L (0-1)|
|WIN||#0||Ryan Shreve, RHP||1.0||1||1||1||1||3||3.00|
|WIN||#0||Ben Harris, LHP||1.0||1||2||0||0||3||33.75|
|WIN||#0||Ryan Middendorf, RHP||2.0||1||2||2||1||6||6.75|
|WIN||#0||Amos Willingham, RHP||0.2||1||0||0||0||2||0.00|
|WIN||#0||Lucas Knowles, LHP||1.0||0||0||0||1||3||0.00|
|WIN||#0||Alek Jacob, RHP||1.0||0||0||0||1||3||0.00|
|WIN||#0||Cade Smith, RHP||2.0||1||0||0||1||6||3.38|
|WIN||#0||Colin Selby, RHP||1.0||3||2||2||1||3||9.00|
|WIN||#0||Omar Cruz, LHP||1.2||1||1||1||2||5||2.45|
|WIN||#0||Tahnaj Thomas, RHP||1.1||1||1||1||0||4||12.00|
|WIN||#0||Jackson Goddard, RHP||2.0||2||2||2||2||6||18.00|
|WIN||#0||Kyle Leahy, RHP||1.2||3||2||2||1||5||14.73|
|WIN||#0||Riley Martin, LHP||2.0||3||3||2||2||6||7.71||L (0-1)|
|WIN||#0||Bailey Horn, LHP||1.0||0||0||0||0||3||0.00|
|WIN||#0||Nick Richmond, RHP||1.0||2||1||1||0||3||3.00||W (1-0)|
|ARI||WIN||#0||Chad Patrick, RHP||2.1||3||4||4||4||7||15.43||L (0-1)|
|ATL||WIN||#0||Allan Winans, RHP||5.0||1||1||0||0||15||0.00|
|CLE||WIN||#0||Hunter Stanley, RHP||3.0||4||1||1||1||9||3.00|
|CWS||WIN||#0||Declan Cronin, RHP||1.0||4||2||2||0||3||18.00|
|HOU||WIN||#0||Rhett Kouba, RHP||2.0||4||2||2||1||6||9.00||W (1-0)|
|MIL||WIN||#0||Russell Smith, LHP||3.0||4||0||0||2||9||0.00|
|NYM||WIN||#0||Josh Walker, LHP||1.0||2||2||2||2||3||18.00||W (1-0)|
|OAK||WIN||#0||Colin Peluse, RHP||3.0||3||2||2||2||9||6.00|
|SD||WIN||#0||Jordan Guerrero, RHP||0.1||2||5||4||2||1||108.00|
|STL||WIN||#0||Tink Hence, RHP||1.0||0||0||0||0||3||0.00|
|TB||WIN||#0||Alexander Ayala, LHP||2.0||2||0||0||0||6||0.00|