Hence's electric stuff highlights Cards' Spring Breakout

March 15th, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- As one of five MLB clubs with each of their top 10 prospects participating in MLB’s inaugural Spring Breakout, the Cardinals offered fans at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium plenty of opportunities to see their potential stars of tomorrow shine on Friday afternoon.

Tink Hence, the Cardinals' top pitching prospect (and the club's No. 2 prospect overall) per MLB Pipeline, certainly showed why he is so highly thought of in two innings of spectacular work in the club’s 3-2 loss to the Marlins.

Here is a look at five of the top performances from St. Louis' prospects in the first installment of Spring Breakout, MLB’s one-of-a-kind forum to showcase the top young talent from each organization before the start of the 2024 season.

Hence shines with electric stuff
Hence, the 21-year-old right-hander who came from the same 2020 Draft class that produced Cardinals regulars Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn and Alec Burleson, showed off his raw ability and growing maturity in two scoreless innings.

Hence needed just 12 pitches to get through the first inning, setting the Marlins down in order. Then, in the second, Hence tallied three strikeouts around a single and a stolen base. Making what he did even more impressive, Hence fanned three Marlins with three different pitches in the frame.

Hence mixed speeds beautifully against Will Banfield and ultimately got the catcher swinging with an 83.5 mph changeup. Then Hence fanned Griffin Conine with an 86.7 mph cutter before getting Miami's No. 8-ranked prospect Kemp Alderman to go down swinging at a 97.4 mph sinker.

Hence, who added more muscle in the offseason to get himself to 185 pounds, is hoping that his added strength will make his pitches more potent and his body more durable in the season ahead. A likely starter with Double-A Springfield, Hence is hoping to be at Triple-A at some point soon, and then possibly join Walker, Winn and Burleson in St. Louis by September.

“I feel it," Hence said of his physical improvements. "The way I feel getting down the mound, and then with the way the ball is coming out, it’s a little easier. Today, I was kind of on top of stuff and the fastball had a lot of life like it usually does. So I was really excited about that.”

Mozeliak marvels at Scott's progress
Not long after finalizing a two-year contract extension for manager Oliver Marmol, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak joined MLB Network during the game -- and he was immediately asked about the meteoric rise of speedy outfielder Victor Scott II. Scott, who won a Gold Glove and stole 94 bases last season in the Minors, went 0-for-3, though his bases-loaded walk produced St. Louis' first run.

Scott came into Friday 11-for-30 (.367) with four stolen bases this spring. With Tommy Edman (wrist) out and Lars Nootbaar's status (rib fractures) uncertain, Scott is making a strong push for an Opening Day roster spot -- something that Mozeliak admitted has come as a surprise to him.

"He's an incredible player,” Mozeliak said of the 23-year-old Scott. “I will say this: A year ago when I saw him in Peoria, I didn't envision him having this big of a stride and having the success that he's having now. Last year, he was more of a slap type of hitter, and now, he's getting leverage behind it and drilling the ball to all fields. And, obviously, if he gets on base, it's a double or a triple, because he's likely going to run."

Prieto shows off his stroke, rips triple
César Prieto, the No. 19 prospect in the Cards' system after coming over from the Orioles in the Jack Flaherty trade last July, had one of his squad’s biggest hits of the day in the third inning.

Prieto, who defected from a Cuba All-Star team while in nearby West Palm Beach in 2021, drilled a triple down the right-field line off Marlins right-hander Jacob Miller.

Roby flashes his velo
As painful as it was for the Cardinals to trade Jordan Montgomery last July and then see him win a World Series with the Rangers, the club is thrilled with the haul it received in return.

Thomas Saggese was the Double-A Texas League MVP last season, though he struggled through an 0-for-3 day with two strikeouts and a double play.

Tekoah Roby, the club's No. 3-ranked prospect, allowed two hits and one unearned run in an inning of work. The impressive part, however, was that his 10 fastballs averaged 97 mph of raw velocity -- and the pitch topped out at 98 mph.

Levenson continues to show pop
Outfielder Zach Levenson, the Cardinals' fifth-round pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, smashed a sixth-inning home run down the left-field line to draw St. Louis within a run.

Levenson, an Orlando native, impressively hit 21 home runs in two collegiate seasons with the Miami Hurricanes. He followed that up by smashing six homers in just 123 at-bats last season with Single-A Palm Beach.