The Baltimore Orioles may not have many veteran Major League pitchers, but they are fully stocked with minor leaguer hurlers.
He has yet to pitch in the Major Leagues, but he is currently on the 40-man roster. The Orioles placed him on the roster to protect him from having to enter the Rule-5 Draft.
Why he’s worth protecting
David Hess is a 24-year-old pitcher from Tennessee. He attended Tennessee Technological University and the Orioles drafted him in 2014 in the fifth round. According to the Orioles website, Hess stands 6’2 and weighs 180 pounds.
The Orioles obvious have issues when it comes to starting pitching, so Hess is an important component in the farm system. In the last three minor league seasons, Hess has 77 starts under his belt. During 2016 and 2017, all of his starts were with the Double-A Bowie Baysox. He struggled a bit in 2016 and ended the season with an ERA of 5.37 with a WHIP of 1.579.
But, in 2017, he recovered and posted an ERA of 3.85 with a WHIP of 1.231. He was named pitcher of the week in the Eastern League twice in 2017.
In 2015, in Single-A+, he pitched his first and only complete game shutout with the Frederickson Keys.
The scouting report
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Fangraphs has evaluated Hess a few times. In 2015, he was ranked as the 13th best prospect in the system. Kiley McDaniel considered Hess a steal as a fifth-round draft pick. His pitching is similar in style to that of Dylan Bundy and he can reach 97 MPH with his fastball. He has a changeup, curveball, and slider, too. McDaniel predicted that Hess could be a back-end starter.
One positive with Hess is that he rarely gives up home runs, but most home runs are infrequent in minor league games already. Hess recorded a BABIP of .269 in Double-A and his walk rate was 3.09 per nine. He is a solid pitcher for the Orioles minor league system according to the detailed stats recorded on Fangraphs.
Check him out in Sarasota
As a member of the 40-man roster, Hess will automatically be invited to Spring Training. There, he could have a chance to show whether he is ready to move to the Birdland. He has not pitched in the tougher Triple-A system, but some pitchers are able to bypass that and move to the Bigs.
Clearly, the Orioles have yet to determine who will fill the three empty starting rotation spots. So, if Hess can prove he has the stuff and the attitude to step onto the mound against batters like Giancarlo Stanton, Mookie Betts, and Josh Donaldson, he just might get to skip Triple-A and go straight to the MLB.