Derek Hill: #1 Prospect On the Rise

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We celebrate another birthday for Derek Hill today. That’s 19 of them now. Derek Jeter made his debut the same year the younger Derek was born. The Tigers may have missed out on that other kid from Kalamazoo, Michigan, but they have been far wiser in their pursuit of this other Derek from Elk Grove, California. And a tad lucky, too.

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Derek’s dad, Orsino Hill, is a career baseball man, having spent his playing days in the minor leagues with teams from seven different MLB affiliates before becoming an area scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before the draft this year, it was expected in many circles that the Dodgers would be the beneficiary of the Hill & Hill California connection and wind up with Derek in the first round. After all, they picked ahead of the Tigers! Somehow the high school phenom stayed available and was promptly plucked by David Chadd and  the Tiger braintrust.

Derek is blessed with track-star type speed, probably his greatest asset. That speed impacts both offensively and defensively. He reads the ball off the bat, gets great jumps, and tracks down then gloves many gappers and goners anywhere within the neighbourhood of centre field. He has been clocked at 6.44 seconds in the 60 yard dash. He regularly legs out infield hits, reaching first base in about 4 seconds. From the right side of the batter’s box! Muy rapido. Scouting reports indicate an accurate and very strong arm. 92 mph from an outfielder! Yoenis Cespedes and Derek may have some good-natured throwing competitions in Lakeland this coming spring.

The kid has an athletic build. 6’2” and, depending on what you read, anywhere from 175 to 195 pounds. Early scouting reports characterized his stature as “skinny”. Interesting word. I remember a similar scouting report about another 6’2” 170 pound high school phenom by the name of Albert William Kaline.

As with many (or maybe even “any”) prospects, it will be hitting that makes or breaks Derek. At this point he has been scouted as a disciplined hitter, with good bat speed and quick to the ball. Not a lot of power projection, but rather, solid line drives with an ability to hit off field. It is enjoyable to envision young Derek testing “Triples Alley” at Comerica. Perhaps the power will come with physical maturity. It certainly did with Mister Tiger.

Derek’s last year of high school ball saw him hit an even .500 with a .586 OBP. He also stole bases at will and maintained a very nice bb/k ratio. He capped his season off with an excellent game at the Perfect Game National Showcase in June at the Metrodome. A sample of his defensive wizardry can be found here: Derek Hill’s Amazing Catch .

A legitimate concern is how Derek will be able to handle RHP. In his first year of professional ball he shared the season between the Rookie league and short season “A” ball. Splits against righties were not particularly good.

Small sample combined stats show him struggling at a .177 clip against same armside pitching. However, he pretty much clobbered southpaws, batting a robust .317. This next year of ball will likely provide Derek with an extended 140 game schedule for the Western Michigan Whitecaps. It will be a very important year in his development.

“from good bloodlines, a hard worker and a good kid”

Tiger fans have something to be excited about. It will take time, but Derek has been complimented by knowledgeable baseball people as being “from good bloodlines, a hard worker and a good kid”.

The stats tell one story and the intangibles another. It’s up to Derek to tell his own.

Next: Links: Hot prospect, Iglesias progress, Price rumors

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