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Chad Hinshaw: Marlin on the Rise

Chad Hinshaw spent last season playing in center field for the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

Throughout the 2017-18 offseason, we are profiling Miami’s most interesting prospects. Using the ranker.com poll to order Miami’s minor leaguers, we’re giving you the skinny on the top 100. Click here for the rundown.

Today’s prospect, Chad Hinshaw, is a 6’1”, 205 lb. outfielder from Bloomington, Illinois. Born on September 10th, 1990, he played four seasons of college ball in the Mid-Valley Conference, with the Illinois State Redbirds. He played over 50 games in each season, totaling 109 stolen bases in 218 games and slashing .274/.401/.376 with 119 RBI. His efforts resulted in a 15th round selection by the Los Angeles Angels, with the 457th pick off the board, three selections ahead of former Marlin Cody Ege.

After the draft, Hinshaw joined the Orem Owlz in the rookie-level Pioneer League. He slashed .258/.412/.281, with nine stolen bases, 24 runs, and eight RBI in 26 contests, with a 953 fielding percentage in 43 outfield chances. In the nine games in which he appeared from June 29th through July 26th, he hit 13-for-32, a .406 average, hitting safely in each and putting together a four-game multi-hit streak in the middle of it.

2014 would see Hinshaw graduate to the single-A level, first with the lower designated Burlington Bees in the Midwest League, then with the high-A Inland Empire 66ers in the California League. He was rocking along to a .282/403/.461 slash line with the Bees, with six homers, 24 RBI, and 25 stolen bases in just 59 games.

The Angels, suitably impressed, issued the promotion to the Sixers, where he slashed .261/.333/.489 with 10 round-trippers, 46 RBI, and 16 more stolen bags in 65 contests. He made just two errors across the minors that season, for a .992 fielding percentage. monkeywithahalo.com had this to say about him at the time:

Hinshaw is a bit older than the age curve, so he needed to have a good season in order to avoid anonymity. He responded by flashing his plus tools in the Midwest League, making the all-star team, moving up to the Cal League, sowing more of the same and then earning his ticket to the AFL, where he was once again quite good. He really couldn’t have had much better of a season. - Scott Allen

In 2015, Hinshaw started out the year at the double-A level with the Arkansas Travelers in the Texas League, putting together a .258/.395/.376 slashline over 27 games before landing on the DL with a thumb injury. He had five stolen bases and a dozen RBI, then spent two months inactive before landing with the AZL Angels for a two-week rehab assignment.

After rejoining the Travelers, Hinshaw seemed to have traded some power for average, slashing .306/.389/.359 in 44 contests, with 22 stolen bases and 14 RBI. He was even better with the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. He started out with 12 hits in his first five games before getting together a .349/.397/.508 slashline in 15 games, with two homers and 12 RBI.

At the start of the 2016 campaign, Hinshaw was ranked as the Angels’ ninth best prospect. MLB pipeline had this to say about him at the time:

Since joining the organization, Hinshaw has developed into a much more viable offensive threat. He came out of the college ranks with a very bad and choppy swing, almost with a downhill swing path. He’s worked since to get some usable length to his swing to allow him to drive the ball through the middle of the diamond, rather than just chop at it and use his legs to get on. He’ll never be a big power guy, but he should be able to drive the ball to the gaps. He runs well and is a basestealing threat and offers excellent range in the outfield. He’s always taken pride in his defense and can play all three spots.

Hinshaw lost a lot of the 2016 season on the disabled list, playing in just 57 contests with the Travelers and slashing just .190/.288/.302 with five homers, 23 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. He was still solid defensively, with zero errors in 116 outfield chances, with five assists. Despite the offensive setback, he began 2017 spring training as the Angels’ 30th ranked prospect.

At the close of spring training, Hinshaw was released by the Angels, then signed a contract to play with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the independent Atlantic League on April 14th. After going 0-for-3 and not getting any playing time to speak of, Hinshaw was again released from his contract.

Hinshaw joined the New Orleans Baby Cakes on May 18th after signing a minor league deal with Miami. He slashed .300/.406/.489 over his first 29 contests, with two home runs, three stolen bases, and 11 RBI.

I’m happy to be healthy and playing every day. - Hinshaw, as quoted by Rand Reinhardt at pantagraph.com

Hinshaw’s numbers fell off as the season progressed, landing at .229/.309/.341 in 81 games, with four homers, 24 RBI and six stolen bases. He continued his defensive excellence, making just one error in 130 outfield chances, with three assists.

Hinshaw was kind enough to answer a few questions on Wednesday night.

Fish Stripes: Growing up in Bloomington, Illinois, which is just about halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, gave you a choice in which major league team you favored. Did you follow the Cubs, the White Sox, the Cardinals, or the Royals....or some other team entirely?

Chad Hinshaw: The White Sox were my team while the rest of my family followed the Cardinals. It worked out well because we all hated the Cubs equally and they were in different leagues.

Fish Stripes: I liked the Cubs growing up because we didn’t have a team when I was younger, and I had to pick between the Braves, the Mets, and the Cubs. I was a big Ryne Sandberg fan.

Sandberg enjoyed longevity in the major leagues, in part due to his defensive skills. You’ve only made two errors in nearly 300 games in centerfield through your professional career. To what do you attribute your near-perfect defensive performance?

Hinshaw: Defense has always come easy to me, always felt comfortable and natural out there. More importantly, I know the player that I am (speed guy) and what my strengths are. So if I’m not helping the team offensively that day I know defensively I will help the team by roaming center and stealing as many hits as I can. And like you are talking about with Sandberg, you can stick around for awhile in a few positions (like center) if you really set yourself apart from others. That motivates me to continue and try to stay solid out there.

Fish Stripes: You mentioned that you’re a speed guy, and to that effect, you were pretty highly regarded earlier in your career. In fact, you ranked in Anaheim’s top 10 prospects as recently as 2016. I’m sure that it was an emotional roller coaster going from top prospect to getting waived to getting signed by the Marlins and sitting just one step from the major leagues in just over a month’s time. Can you walk us a little through your mindset through the series of events?

Hinshaw: Yeah it was obviously tough, especially because I can’t say I saw it coming. But things don’t change, I’m still out there competing every day, still working on my craft. So besides how a front office views me and I don’t have the same leeway when it comes to performance. I’m still the same player and still trying to reach the majors.

Fish Stripes: I do hope to see you with the Fish later this year, and there seems to be an opening coming up in right field.

After playing four the Ironmen at Normal Community High, you played four seasons of college ball with the Redbirds of Illinois State University. Is there anyone who has stood outs most influential in your development?

Hinshaw: Everyone has done their part to influence the player I am. Whether it’s the mental aspect or the mechanical side, I can't say there is one person who molded me to the player I am. I have just listened and learned from a lot of good coaches and if something stuck, I’d run with it. Just kind of pieced myself together as a player over those years.

Fish Stripes: Baseball players have become infamous for having some strange superstitions. What’s the strangest one you’ve seen - and do you have any?

Hinshaw: Personally I don’t have one specific thing I do, i kind of repeat something I did the day before if I had success. For example, put my helmet or bats in the same spot. If the next day I don't do well, then I just do whatever again. So I’d say I have day-to-day performance based superstitions/routines, if you can even call it that. It’s more of a confidence thing for me. I honestly don’t know too many strange superstitions but strangest has to be a teammate would have to eat two chocolate chip cookies, no more, no less, before he headed out onto the field.

Fish Stripes: Eating chocolate chip cookies is not a strange thing to do in my house.

OK, last question. What kinds of hobbies do you like to pursue during your downtime?

Hinshaw: (laughing) I hear you on that last one.

My hobbies change year-to-year depending on where I’m living that offseason. As of lately, I enjoy getting out on the water and just swimming or paddleboarding, etc., also enjoy pickleball. One of the few competitive activities I can do but stay safe while playing. And like many, playing video games.

Although not part of Miami’s 40-man roster, Hinshaw is solid organizational depth, and not that far removed from his more-than-solid 2015 numbers. If he can keep it together, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him in Miami at some point this season.

Fish Stripes would like to thank Hinshaw for taking his time to answer our questions this offseason. Make sure to check back here tomorrow for another Marlin on the Rise, constant updates on the Stanton Sweepstakes, and every other Miami Marlin related story that’s fit to print.