Detroit Tigers Top Prospect #2: Derek Hill
By Ben Rosener
Derek Hill will be Detroit Tigers’ center fielder for a long time thanks to his tremendous potential.
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Once you get this high up in the rankings, the prospects have to possess significant upside. For Detroit Tigers minor-league center fielder Derek Hill, that’s exactly the case.
The 20-year-old was drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft out of Elk Grove High School in California. He has logged just two seasons in the minors, but has already reached Single-A.
Hill is so highly thought of that Baseball Prospectus went so far as to rank him as the game’s 98th-best prospect entering the 2015 season.
Stats So Far
In 2014, the player’s first season as a professional, the outfielder hit .208 with a .296 on-base percentage, a .295 slugging percentage and a .591 OPS in 47 games. In addition to those numbers, he collected three doubles, three triples, two home runs, 14 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Hill walked 18 times and struck out on 45 occasions.
While those numbers don’t inspire a lot of confidence, it must be remembered that Hill was a teenager fresh out of high school performing against professionals.
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Things took a slightly more positive turn in 2015 for the former first-round pick.
Hill bumped his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage to .238, .305 and .314 respectively. His OPS jumped as well, to .619. In addition, the outfielder collected 11 extra-base hits (six doubles and five triples) and drove in 16 runs. He stole a relatively staggering 25 bases in only 53 games.
As evidenced by Hill’s stolen base totals, he profiles as a table setter that operates near the top of the batting order.
The outfielder’s speed should come in handy on defense, where the 20-year-old can be special. Baseball Prospectus notes that “Hill’s ceiling is a leadoff hitter who wins Gold Gloves in center.” The same publication also notes that “One scout compared him defensively to Lorenzo Cain.”
If Hill can provide the same excellent defense that Cain does, in addition to being a serious threat on the base paths, the Detroit Tigers will have a special talent to build around.
While incumbent options Cameron Maybin (28-years-old) and Anthony Gose (24-years-old) are relatively young, neither have done enough yet in their careers to be labeled the Tigers’ center fielder of the future.
That role belongs to Hill.
Maybin and Gose will likely serve as stop-gap options until hold the position down until the top prospect is ready for the Major Leagues. When he reaches the big leagues, expect Hill to slot in at the top of the Detroit batting order.
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With his speed ahead of the likes of Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton in the lineup, the Detroit Tigers’ offense will be a run-scoring juggernaut.
In the outfield, Hill’s defense alongside Martinez and Upton shouldn’t be too shabby either.