At just 22 years old, Derek Hill still has time on his side. Hill’s calling card has always been his elite defense in center field. While the Tigers have been waiting for him to hit, he always had a safety net that he’d still make the big leagues because of his defense.
However, the arrival of uber prospect Daz Cameron – along with the growth of JaCoby Jones as a defensive centerfielder, have taken away Hill’s safety net. A good defensive center fielder who cannot hit no longer has appeal in Detroit’s sytem. If Hill can’t get things going with the stick, he will be passed up on the depth chart and may lose his chance to wear the Old English D.
Hill was drafted out of High School by the Tigers in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft. A series of injuries has held Hill back, and despite being in the system for four years he has only seen 31 at-bats at High-A.
In 991 career at-bats, Hill has slashed .245/.316/.339. He only has five career home runs, but has swiped 100 bases on 120 attempts. Hill played in 93 games in 2016, hitting .266 with a .312 OBP and 35 stolen bases. He was injured for most of 2017, only earning 224 at-bats across three levels. He slashed .285/.367/.444 in 144 at-bats with Single-A, before getting a brief promotion to High-A, where he went 6-for-31.
The Hill he needs to climb
Hill will likely start out in High-A ball next season. If he stays healthy and is able to get on-base with more consistency, he could easily progress quickly through the minor leagues. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him reach Triple-A with a good, healthy season. A September call-up is ambitious, but possible for the right-hander.
However, another season of Hill floundering at the plate would really set him back. The Tigers likely aren’t ready to completely abandon their 2014 first-rounder altogether, but it will become harder and harder to justify a spot on the 40-man if Hill can’t get it together. Especially with Cameron, Jones and Victor Reyes all capable of playing center field, Hill’s days may be numbered.