The Detroit Tigers know Derek Hill can play defense. Can he join Spencer Turnbull and Grayson Greiner as the third player from the 2014 Tigers’ draft class to make the roster in 2020?
During Summer Camp, Derek Hill, along with Riley Greene, made some noise with a pair of impressive catches. The catches were so impressive, it caught the eye of Jomboy Media, who hosts several baseball podcasts and does a great job breaking down events in baseball history. When the Detroit Tigers get the attention of mainly a gentlemen who talks Yankees, it’s saying something.
Derek Hill’s journey to the majors has been filled with dazzling defensive plays. The Tigers drafted the 70-grade speedy outfielder out of high school and he has lived up to that part of his overall package.
Hill is the son of former 1st round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 1982, Orsino Hill. Orsino spent 12 seasons in the minors, grinding out a career that served well as he is now a scout for the LA Dodgers. That type of commitment has rubbed off on Derek as he continued to get better throughout the Tigers’ system.
Despite the injuries that have hampered his development time with 2018 being the first time he played more than 100 games (back, quad, and even Tommy John surgery), he showed improvement in the power department. As Chris Brown of the Tigers Minor League Report.com discussed, the iso numbers jumped up last year from .079 in 2018 to .151 in 2019. How different are the swing mechanics? If you look at the video done here by James Chipman, you can see here the follow-through is different through the zone in 2018 than in 2019. You can tell he has added some muscle since he was first drafted.
Here’s his swing on a home run in 2019.
Also, a key stat to point out as an indicator he’s looking to find his home run power. According to Fangraphs, his groundball percentage in 2018 was 48.5% but that number dropped to 38.7% in 2019 and flyball % went up from 33.2% to 41.6%. Also, a number that stands out to me because perhaps he is squaring up the ball to the outfield more is his infield fly ball percentage went from 21.1% to 10.7%. While Erie is a launching pad for homers, giving up 2.0 home runs per contest at home, Hill’s numbers increase is still worth noting.
While his slash line last year of .243/.311/.394 is a slight improvement than his numbers in Lakeland the year before, he still prone to strike out too much. Still, you root for Derek Hill, who could serve in a bench role as a defensive replacement and his speed. The Tigers could use that in spots. His 2019 Arizona Fall League numbers were similar, .254/.323/.475 with 3 home runs in 65 plate appearances with Mesa and picked up six stolen bases.
As all of us who watch baseball closely as if a profile suggests he strikes out too much, well, he is who he is but at the age of 24, if Hill continues to show improvement in his power numbers, the strikeouts may not matter. Regardless, of all the first-rounders in camp, Derek Hill is making sure he is not forgotten about in the shuffle for a roster spot.