The Tigers have several intriguing relief prospects in their Minor League minicamp, but Zack Hess was a notable omission from the roster that came out last week. There was a good reason: The former LSU reliever turned High-A West Michigan closer underwent Tommy John surgery last month.
Hess will miss the entire 2022 season. He has been spotted at the Tigertown complex in a rehab capacity with his arm in a brace.
Hess posted about the surgery on Instagram last month, including a photo of him in the hospital following the surgery.
“Not the way I thought 2022 was gonna start out,” Hess posted, “but, such is life.”
Hess, a seventh-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, opened eyes the following year with cameo appearances in Spring Training and Summer Camp, which landed him a spot on MLB Pipeline’s Tigers Top 30 prospects list to close out 2020. The 24-year-old right-hander pitched in three Grapefruit League games last year before heading to West Michigan, where he struck out 66 batters over 49 2/3 innings. Opponents batted just .212 against him, including just .155 from right-handed hitters, but he allowed a .342 on-base percentage thanks to 34 walks.
That trend continued in the Arizona Fall League, where Hess posted seven walks and 12 strikeouts over 10 innings in as many appearances for Salt River.
Hess ended last season with two scoreless appearances at Double-A Erie, where he would have likely opened this year.
Franklin Perez also rehabbing
Hess isn’t the only injured Tigers pitching prospect working in Lakeland. Franklin Perez, who underwent right shoulder surgery last year, has been at the Tigertown complex. Perez lives nearby in the Orlando area.
The 24-year-old Perez hasn’t pitched in a Minor League game since 2019, though he pitched in two Grapefruit League games last Spring Training. He was set to open last season at High-A West Michigan, but was diagnosed with a shoulder capsule defect, leading to surgery. The Tigers released him to open a 40-man roster spot, but kept him in their system by re-signing him to a Minor League contract.
Perez was MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked Tigers prospect — and the 39th-ranked prospect in Minor League baseball — in 2018 following his trade from the Astros in the Justin Verlander deal, a reflection of his arsenal, physique and upside. Injuries have limited him to just nine games and 27 innings since the deal.