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Draft prospects you should know: Zack Hess

This power arm from LSU comes with a question: Will he be a reliever or starter at the next level?

Zack Hess is a collegiate power arm who the White Sox could snag in this year’s draft.
@Zack_Hess38

When you have the No. 3 overall pick, it’s never too soon to take a quick peek into this year’s MLB draft. This year’s draft class is loaded with excellent hitting prospects, but is relatively weak on the pitching side.

Draft Prospects You Should Know is a new series that features prospects who the White Sox could pursue in this year’s draft. As the June draft nears, we’ll return to many of these athletes and provide updates on whether their stocks are rising (or falling).

Age listed as of Day One of the Draft (June 3).


Zack Hess
LSU
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Age 22
Bats Right
Throws Right

Rankings

Baseball America 63
MLB 83
FanGraphs NA

Zack Hess was projected by many to be a Day One selection in this year’s MLB draft. However, after struggling with his command for SEC powerhouse LSU, his stock has fallen significantly. What complicates his draft status is that while he did such an outstanding job in relief during his freshman campaign for LSU, his control and overall numbers have been subpar out of the rotation. In many ways, he’s similar to Duke southpaw Graeme Stinson. Here are Hess’s collegiate results through May 2, 2019:

2017 30 G, 6 GS, 3.12 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .174 OBA, 60.2 IP, 39 H, 30 BB, 83 Ks
2018 17 G, 16 GS, 5.05 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, .237 OBA, 92.2 IP, 83 H, 49 BB, 107 Ks
2019 11 G, 10 GS, 4.65 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, .294 OBA, 50 IP, 59 H, 25 BB, 52 Ks

Aside from a marginal improvement in his walk rate this year, all other numbers (ERA, OBA, K/9, WHIP) have taken a severe tumble. This has been a surprise to some scouts, who saw him surrender just a walk and a strikeout while fanning eight in two Cape Cod League starts spanning seven innings in 2018. With his strikeout drop and noticeable head whack upon release, many scouts tab him as a reliever at the next level. Also, Hess’s straight-leg delivery is high energy throughout, which may remind fans of a former Sox first-round pick from a fellow SEC school, having incredible trouble finding success in the majors.

Hess is fairly imposing at 6´6´´ and 215 pounds. Thus, like other tall power righties like Lucas Giolito or Alec Hansen, Hess’s mechanics may eventually get out of whack. This, of course, often leads to struggles with control and command. Hess’s fastball typically runs 91-95 mph but has topped out at 96 mph according to Baseball America, and does feature good running action at times. Also per to Baseball America, his second pitch is a low-80s slider, which actually has more slurvy action and sharp bite when on. The third pitch in Hess’s repertoire is an 81 mph changeup per 2080 Baseball, which he uses occasionally as a starter but could be ditched if he converts to closer.

Baseball America has dropped Hess from 48th to 63rd on their draft prospect rankings, largely due to concerns about his control and declining strikeout rates. If teams think he can be a starter long-term, they’re more likely to draft him in the second or even early third rounds. However, if teams consider him more as reliever in the Ryan Madson mode, it’s conceivable he could drop as far as the fourth or fifth rounds. This is where the White Sox should consider him if they truly feel he’s best suited for that role.

Here’s a video of Hess pitching against Chinese Taipei as a member of the USA National Collegiate Baseball team last year, courtesy of 2080 Baseball:


Previously, on Draft Prospects You Should Know

C.J. Abrams, Blessed Trinity (Ga.) H.S. SS
Hunter Bishop, Arizona State University OF
Cameron Cannon, University of Arizona 2B/3B
Matt Canterino, Rice University RHSP
Matt Cronin, University of Arkansas LHRP
Tyler Dyson, University of Florida RHSP
Daniel Espino, Georgia Premier Academy RHSP
Dominic Fletcher, University of Arkansas OF
Jonathan French, Parkview (Ga.) H.S. C
Ethan Hearn, Mobile Christian (Ala.) H.S. C
Rece Hinds, IMG Baseball Academy (Fla.) 3B
Jason Hodges, Marist (Ill.) H.S. OF-1B
Will Holland, Auburn University SS
Seth Johnson, University of Oregon RHSP
Jack Leiter, Delbarton (N.J.) H.S. RHSP
Erik Miller, Stanford University LHSP
Chris Newell, Malvern (Pa.) Prep H.S. OF
Kyren Paris, Freedom (Calif.) H.S. SS
Quinn Priester, Cary-Grove (Ill.) H.S. RHSP
Adley Rutschman, Oregon State University C
Landon Sims, South Forsyth (Ga.) H.S., RHSP
Andrew Vaughn, University of California, 1B
Matt Wallner, Southern Miss University OF
Kenyon Yovan, University of Oregon RHSP
Ryan Zeferjahn, University of Kansas RHSP