Signed by scout Adrian Dorsey, the 21-year-old Hess had pitched out of the bullpen his first two years in college and was a starter as a junior. He got a slightly under-slot bonus of $280,000 to sign.
Last season for Tennessee Tech, Hess went 9-3 with a 3.24 ERA in 16 starts. Over 97 1/3 innings, he allowed 81 hits with 34 walks and 104 strikeouts. He averaged 9.62 strikeouts per nine innings with a .227 batting average against.
When Hess was introduced to reporters at a Camden Yards press conference after he signed in June, scouting director Gary Rajsich provided a profile on the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder.
“David Hess has a power arm,” Rajsich said. “He’s got a great delivery. The thing we like most about David is he pitches with his fastball and he’s not afraid. He also has a curveball, slider and changeup. He has tremendous upside as well.”
Said Hess: “Every kid dreams of this opportunity. I’ve worked for 15 years for it. I grew up playing Little League for the Orioles. So to be picked by them was a cool thing for me. I can’t explain how excited I am to be a part of this organization.”
Hess pitches between 90 and 93 mph with his fastball, touching the mid-90s at times. The slider and changeup are considered solid-average right now.
Hess went 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 10 games between short-season Single-A Aberdeen and Single-A Delmarva. Over 33 1/3 innings, he allowed 29 hits with eight walks and 36 strikeouts. Had he not allowed six runs in one outing, his ERA would have been 1.78.
“He is strong and has the ability to repeat his delivery,” Aberdeen manager Matt Merullo said of Hess. “Probably had the most consistent command of anyone we had all year. Coming out of college, we are trying to get guys to just attack and learn how to locate his fastball and he did that well. He has a tight slider and is a polished guy with plus makeup and character.”
Hess pitched a scoreless inning with one strikeout representing Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game.
Merullo said Hess’ secondary pitches have potential.
“They have a chance to be good,” Merullo said. “You see a nice late-breaking slider. He can get underneath it some and it just needs consistency. His changeup was solid when he kept it down.
“His approach was very professional. He was competitive and you knew he was going to throw strikes. Seems like a guy that could be a dependable pitcher for a while.”
One O’s front office executive said Hess reminds him of current Orioles pitcher Bud Norris because of a similar body and delivery. Hess is likely to begin the 2015 season in Single-A Delmarva’s rotation.