The Cardinal Nation’s July Pitcher of the Month – Tink Hence

photo: Tink Hence (Palm Beach Cardinals)

It is time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Pitcher of the Month. This article covers players across all levels of the St. Louis Cardinals system during July 2022.

As a reminder, this is NOT the “Pitcher of the Month Among Top Prospects”. Every player in the system has an equal chance, with only their performance during the month used to differentiate the best of the best. Age and level, which are key prospect considerations, are not factors here.


To qualify, a pitcher must have thrown at least 10 innings during July. 46 pitchers made the first cut. To reach the list of finalists, an ERA below 2.50 was required.  The eight finalists broke out into three distinct groups: two pitchers with ERAs below 1.18, two with ERAs between 1.45 and 1.61, and four pitchers with ERAs between 2.12 and 2.25.

Counting Stats

Of the eight finalists, all levels of the organization are covered except for Double-A Springfield. This is a bit surprising given the earlier success of Top 10 prospects Michael McGreevy and Gordon Graceffo (whose July ERAs were 6.75 and 4.08, respectively).

In fairness, High-A Peoria almost missed out, too, represented by just one start from a pitcher promoted in at the end of the month, Inohan Paniagua. Four of the finalists are from rookie-ball, with the Dominican Summer League most represented with three.

In the following table, finalists are listed in ascending ERA order.

Tink Hence PB 0 0 0.84 3 3 0 10.2 6 1 1 0 0 3 17 0.84 0.162
Inohan Paniagua PB-Peo 1 0 1.17 4 4 0 23 10 3 3 0 5 4 22 0.61 0.132
Jose Davila FCL 0 1 1.45 4 4 0 18.2 16 6 3 1 0 5 22 1.13 0.222
Aaron Brooks Mem 2 0 1.61 4 3 0 22.1 22 6 4 1 0 3 24 1.12 0.253
Jake Woodford Mem 2 1 2.12 4 4 0 17 11 4 4 0 1 6 15 1.00 0.183
Alexander Beltre DSL 2 0 2.37 4 4 1 19 20 7 5 0 0 5 21 1.32 0.274
Darlin Saladin DSL 1 0 2.41 4 4 0 18.2 18 8 5 0 0 8 20 1.39 0.265
Juan Salas DSL 1 0 2.45 3 3 0 14.2 9 4 4 1 0 4 17 0.89 0.176

Based on their low ERAs, Palm Beach’s Tink Hence and Paniagua, coming off the Cardinal organization’s June Pitcher of the Month award, have earned the highest consideration. The two spent most of July as rotation mates for the Beach Birds.

Hence vs. Paniagua

The first and biggest question may be whether Hence has been fully tested, having never gone beyond four innings and 65 pitches per outing. On the other hand, Paniagua averaged almost six innings per July start.

The conclusion here is that while it is fair to wonder, because Hence meets the qualifications, we should review his results on their merits.

Inohan Paniagua

Hence led in ERA by a considerable amount, but Paniagua was superior in WHIP and batting average against. An oddity is that Paniagua hit more batters, five, than he walked, four. That may suggest he is unafraid to pitch in as deemed necessary.

Though their ERAs were over two, Memphis’ Jake Woodford and the Dominican Summer League’s Juan Salas deserve special note because they logged WHIPs of 1.00 or less and opposing batting averages of .183 or lower.

Advanced stats

Here are additional measures from the same eight finalists in the same name sequence.

Tink Hence PB 40 164 15.4 0 0 0.56 14.3 2.5 5.7 0.300 3 1
Inohan Paniagua PB-Peo 85 316 13.7 2 1 1.00 8.6 1.6 5.5 <.200 2 1
Jose Davila FCL 77 143 7.7 1 1 1.13 10.6 2.4 4.4 0.306 2 1
Aaron Brooks Mem 90 341 15.3 2 1 0.78 9.7 1.2 8.0 0.339 0 0
Jake Woodford Mem 68 272 16.0 1 1 1.50 7.9 3.2 2.5 0.239 1 0
Alexander Beltre DSL 80 146 7.7 0 6 0.70 10.0 2.4 4.2 0.370 2 2
Darlin Saladin DSL 76 152 8.1 0 5 1.50 9.6 3.9 2.5 0.375 3 4
Juan Salas DSL 55 106 7.2 0 1 0.67 10.4 2.5 4.3 0.242 1 1

Hence stands out at both ends of the finalist spectrum. The 19-year-old has the highest strikeout rate, a robust 14.3 batters per nine innings, as well as the second-best strikeout to walk ratio.

On the other hand, Hence’s number of pitches per inning is among the highest – but perhaps it is not all that surprising for a strikeout artist. He also had the highest percentage of fly ball outs and the 75% steal success rate against him makes one wonder if he can improve at holding runners on.

Paniagua had the second lowest strikeout rate and second lowest walk rate among finalists, but Hence’s ratio was still better. A factor against Paniagua was his July BABIP of under .200. Others with likely unsustainably low BABIPs are Woodford (.239) and Salas (.242). DSL finalists Alexander Beltre and Darlin Saladin had high BABIPs of .375 and .380, respectively, hinting that better times could be ahead.

All told, Hence’s strengths are considerate and the areas in which he isn’t as strong are less important. The Arkansas native is a deserving selection as The Cardinal Nation’s July Pitcher of the Month.

About the winner

Hopes have been high ever since the then-17-year-old Hence was selected 63rd overall (Competitive Balance Round B) in the 2020 draft. That draft pick was acquired from Tampa Bay as part of the same trade that netted the Cardinals Matthew Liberatore.

Tink Hence

However, for reasons that remain unclear, the Cardinals have moved very slowly with Hence in his over two years as a professional. (His total career innings are still under 40.)

Hence was drafted in the same class just after fellow high schoolers Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn. The latter two are already starring at Double-A and appear on multiple national top 100 prospect lists. Hence has more to show before he joins them but the raw material is there.

Hence sports mid-to-upper 90’s heat, and also has a two-seamer (sinker), a plus curve and a changeup that is especially effective against left-handed batters.

His strong results in June lowered his season ERA to an impressive 1.15 in 31 1/3 innings.

How last month’s winner fared this month

Our June selection as Pitcher of the Month was Palm Beach lefty Alex Cornwell.

Alex Cornwell

His performance dropped in July, as he posted a 5.48 ERA in four starts. On one hand, the 23-year-old’s 23 strikeouts against just two walks in 23 innings was strong. On the other, however, Cornwell yielded 29 hits while opposing hitters batted a collective .305 against his offerings. The 2021 15th-rounder ended the month on the injured list.

St. Louis’ June Pitcher of the Month was Paniagua, whose July results are chronicled above.

What is next?

On Tuesday, The Cardinal Nation will announce our Player of the Month for July across the system. The Cardinals organization should also name their own selections this week.

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