By Jason Shetler
Gage Hinsz certainly has one of the more interesting back stories among prospects currently in the Pirates system. Hinsz is from Montana, a state that isn’t known for producing much in terms of baseball talent. He attended Billings West High School, but what’s remarkable is that his high school didn’t even have a baseball team. Instead, he pitched for the Langley Blaze, a youth baseball team located in British Columbia, Canada.
The Pirates took Hinsz in the 2014 MLB Draft. Prior to that draft, he had a commitment to pitch at Oregon State, but decided to sign with the Bucs for $580,000, which is good money for an 11th round pick. The selection of Hinsz appeared to be a diamond in the rough, as Baseball America projected him as a sixth rounder.
After appearing in three games for the GCL Pirates in 2014, Hinsz spent the 2015 season with the Bristol Pirates, where he put up a 3.79 ERA in 38 innings pitched. Despite the decent ERA, he had control problems, posting a 5.4 BB/9.
2016 was Hinsz’s first full season of pro ball, spending it with Low A West Virginia. In 17 starts for the Power, Hinsz posted an ERA of 3.66, while significantly cutting down on the walks, with a 2.4 BB/9. He showed an increase in fastball velocity that year, going from low-90’s to mid-90’s.
Hinsz pitched all of 2017 at High A with the Bradenton Marauders. It was a struggle for him that season, as he had a 5.61 ERA in 94.2 innings of work. He also dealt with shoulder soreness. The strikeout figure was very low for Hinsz, as he only put up a K/9 of 4.9, however, that could be contributed to trying to pitch through the shoulder injury.
Shocking news hit the Pirates organization earlier this year, as it was reported by John Dreker of Pirates Prospects that Hinsz had to undergo open heart surgery to replace a defective valve. He of course missed the entire 2018 season, but baseball was obviously secondary at that point. After being fully recovered, Hinsz remarkably returned to the mound this year, pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League for Gigantes de Carolina. His numbers there are sensational, as he’s posted a 1.08 ERA, a WHIP of 0.92, a 2.5 BB/9 and an 8.3 K/9 in five starts, making for perhaps the most phenomenal story this offseason.
Hinsz will begin next season either with Bradenton or AA Altoona. He turns 23 in April, so he still has time to develop into a top tier pitching prospect in the system. Throughout his minor league career, Hinsz has done pretty well keeping balls on the ground, posting a 47% groundball rate, which is a combination of a good curveball, as well as being able to throw on a downhill plane. If Hinsz can continue to throw strikes consistently, rack up strikeouts like he has in the PRWL, and most importantly, stay healthy, then he should be able to take a big step forward in 2019.