Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Hess' baseball prowess began during his final two years of high school, as he notched 127 strikeouts in 107 2/3 innings over that span. As a senior, he was 7-2 with a 3.20 ERA, while also hitting nearly .400 as a third baseman. Also an excellent golfer, Hess earned four varsity letters in golf at Kalamazoo Central High, and played his way to the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference individual title as a senior.
As a freshman at the University of Michigan, Andrew appeared in 19 games for the Wolverines, logging a 4.45 ERA and earning the UM Athletic Academic Achievement Award. While trying to build off a solid frosh campaign, Hess struggled in his return to campus; posting an abysmal 9.72 ERA in just ten outings. He began getting things back in order over the summer, posting a 4.09 ERA in the Great Lakes League.
During his third season in Ann Arbor, Hess appeared in 13 games, logging 55 innings and a 2-2 record. His ERA dropped from his sophomore season, but was still rough at a figure of 6.38 for the season. As a senior, Hess put together his best all-around season on the hill for the Wolverines, with a 7-2 mark and 4.52 ERA. His efforts not only earned him All-Big Ten Third Team honors, but also a selection by the Detroit Tigers in the 19th round of the 2007 draft. Hess debuted with the Tigers' Gulf Coast League affiliate that summer, striking out five batters in three one-inning stints on the mound.
Having not logged a ton of innings in high school or college, Hess' arm is fresh and has strength. He can consistently work his fastball at 90-91, and can touch 93 on occasion. His two-seam fastball generates good sinking action, though he lacks command with the pitch. He has toyed with adding a cutter in the past, but it hasn't developed completely at this point. Offsetting his fastball, Andrew flips an excellent curveball with sharp 11-4 break. It's a true above-average pitch now; with plus potential if he can refine his command and consistency. His change-up is another potential plus pitch, with outstanding sink and arm-side fade, though he has yet to master command of the pitch.
Hess has beautiful mechanics that are clean and easy repeated. His athleticism helps him throughout his motion, and in all his actions on the field. He moves off the mound well and fields his position cleanly. Andrew's pickoff move is top notch for a right-hander, and he is very adept at holding runners, working at about 1.15-1.25 second to home plate. He is mature and poised on the mound, with excellent presence and a level of pitching intelligence that belies his inexperience on the mound.
Andrew has a significant amount of learning to do as he moves up the ladder, but he is bright and takes to things quickly. He profiles best in the bullpen, but he has the strength and stamina to handle starting if asked.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A
As mentioned, Andrew's arm is very fresh without much wear and tear. He will need to be monitored with some level of caution to make sure he doesn't pile up innings to quickly, but there are few concerns over the health of his arm going forward.
Hess has handled the aggressive push to the Midwest League with reasonable ease, and could be in line to move quickly with a strong spring. While he can work in a rotation with three good offerings, he profiles much better as a high-leverage reliever. If he remains in the ‘pen, he could hit Erie sometime around the middle of next year, if not a little sooner. The Tigers were wise to take a chance on a fresh arm with intelligence and potential, and they could be rewarded with a pretty nice relief prospect before too long.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.