Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Hess is a hometown guy that would be an exceptional story for the organization, should he make it to the big leagues. Having graduated as a standout athlete at Kalamazoo Central High, Hess went on to pitch at the University of Michigan where he turned in four up-and-down seasons.
His senior year at UofM was by far his most successful campaign, with a 7-2 record and 4.52 ERA. He was named to the All-Big Ten 3rd team, and was selected by the Tigers in the 19th round of the 2007 draft.
After signing late, Hess only appeared in three games for the GCL Tigers in 2007, and then made his full-season debut with West Michigan in 2008. Working mostly out of the bullpen for the ‘Caps, Hess posted a 3.19 ERA with less than a hit per inning, and nearly seven strikeouts per nine innings.
The Tigers promoted Hess to High-A Lakeland for the 2009 season, where he transitioned to the rotation and started twenty games (23 total appearances) for the Flying Tigers. Hess was more hittable and missed less bats than he had in the past, but he still managed a 3.28 ERA in 123 1/3 innings.
Hess is the type of player that doesn't wow you with any one tool, but the sum of the parts makes him a solid prospect. He starts with a fastball that typically works in the fringe-average range, but has shown more velocity in the past. Sitting routinely at 87-89 during the 2009 season, he can work at 90-91 in shorter stints and can reach back for that when he needs more during a game.
Behind the fastball, Hess also throws a curveball and change-up, both of which flash as solid-average pitches, though they are more often fringy offerings. His curveball is a traditional breaker with good downward action and tight spin. He has trouble staying on top of the pitch, and that lack of consistency keeps it from being a reliable out-pitch. His change-up has both good sink and arm-side fade, but he must maintain his arm speed.
Hess had wonderful mechanics with a long, loose arm, and an easily repeated delivery. He is a very good athlete which makes repeating his mechanics extremely easy, and he takes to instruction quickly.
Andrew is a smart player that understands all facets of the game, and that understanding allows him to remain calm and in control during stressful game situations. He acknowledges his weaknesses and works diligently to improve his overall ability.
Hess projects as a 4th or 5th starter, and if necessary, he could succeed in any variety of relief roles. It is unlikely that he will blow anyone away at any given level, but he could easily end up pitching in the big leagues and be a surprise contributor to a roster.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A+
Hess is still a very raw and inexperienced pitcher, and his arm is still quite fresh without the wear and tear of most college pitchers. He has exceptional mechanics and good athleticism; both of which lend well to his future health.
Spring training will provide an opportunity for Hess to earn a promotion to Double-A Erie, where he would be more likely to work in a relief role. The pitching staffs at Lakeland and Erie are likely to be highly competitive in 2010, and Hess is going to have to do a lot to stand out and maintain his prospect status.
This is an extremely aggressive ranking for a pitcher of Hess' ilk, but numerous scouts that cover the Florida State League loved the totality of the package, despite him lacking any overwhelming tool. They saw a pitcher with some natural ability, projection, and a strong work ethic; a combination that could lead to a bit of a breakout as he continues to refine his craft.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.