Markevian Hence popped onto professional scouts’ radars last summer and enhanced his value during the fall due to a jump in fastball velocity.
The right-handed prep pitcher from Arkansas reached 94 mph with his fastball at the Future Stars Series last September. He experienced another uptick in velocity a month later when he was clocked at 96 mph at the World Wood Bat Association World Championship.
The fastball velocity allowed the 6-foot-1, 175-pound right-hander to move into MLB draft consideration. The 17-year-old Arkansas native is one of the youngest prospects in June’s draft. He has the potential to go in the early rounds of the draft if he has a strong senior season at Watson Chapel (Ark.) High this spring.
“It just makes me feel great just knowing that I’m being looked at by professional teams, which is where I eventually want to play,” Hence said. “Just knowing they are coming and evaluating and interested in me as a prospect is cool.”
Hence credits the uptick in velocity to a change in his arm slot. He’s transitioned from throwing from a three-quarters arm slot to over the top, he said.
He made the change in early September when he received a pitching lesson from Dustin Moseley, a former MLB pitcher who owns a training facility in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Growing up, my dad was my pitching coach but signed me up for this workout,” Hence said. “We always get a free lesson every month, so my dad decided I should work with him. Once he saw what I did wrong, he gave me something to try to see if it would better me.”
Hence throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, curveball, slider and changeup. He exhibited solid command of all of his pitches last summer and fall.
His fastballs are his best pitches and are currently above-average offerings. His slider is his top off-speed and generates swings and misses.
Despite his smaller frame, he has the repertoire, ability to repeat his delivery and athleticism that major league teams seek in a starting pitcher long term.
“My biggest strength I think is my athleticism and my arm speed,” Hence said. “I am just able to do anything on a mound. I am athletic and have a loose arm.”
Over the last six months, Hence has displayed some feel for his changeup in showcase events. His changeup is still a work in progress, however, and he hopes to throw it effectively this spring during his high school season.
To have success with his changeup, Hence needs to have confidence in the pitch and consistently throw it with the same arm action as his fastball, he said.
“I have been working on my changeup mostly,” Hence said. “I feel like that’s my weakest spot right now. I’ve been working on it this offseason and have already seen some improvement with that.”
As a 10th grader in high school, Hence received his first collegiate baseball offer, which was from the University of Arkansas. Growing up in Arkansas, Hence had a passion for Razorback athletics from an early age. The program’s track record for developing talent for pro baseball also factored into Hence’s decision, he said.
“Growing up, Arkansas baseball was always on the TV,” Hence said. “It was my dream school growing up, and it also was my first offer.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.