The 2014 Detroit Tigers first-round pick is showing that he is just more than speed and defense.
When the Detroit Tigers selected Derek Hill 25th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, the Tigers were in the midst of one of their most prosperous periods in franchise history. Hill was drafted on his speed potential and his defense, which was considered then a 60-grade tool by Kiley McDaniel when he was at FanGraphs. (Scouting grade scales goes 20 to 80)
We have spoken at length before here about his swing changes, adding muscle to his frame, and even on our Slack channel and a well-done article by Kellen Gove, discussed if he can be an everyday regular player.
In last night’s win over Boston, Hill continued his growth as a player and a contributor with his bat. Earlier, in the 3rd after Willi Castro struck out, Hill singled. In the fifth inning last night, his walk combined with his speed, he scored easily on the Akil Baddoo double. (Go to the 3:05 mark)
Sample sizes are important to remember but…
Last year, he had 12 plate appearances in which he struck out at a high rate and really was used as an extra innings replacement. Everyone loved the highlight catches but could he cut down his strikeouts and contribute?
Early on, it appears so and the credit goes not only Derek Hill himself tweaking his swings as I mentioned last year but working on getting deeper in counts. In extremely small sample sizes which is important to remember, he has cut his chase % (25% in 2020 to 19% in 2021) and swinging at the first pitch (50% to 39%).
Going back to the walks for a moment, Hill so far has struck out 20% of the time so far this season. It is important to remember that because not only has it been better than his average in the minor leagues but he had done better than FanGraphs’s ZiPS projection of 6.9% BB/ 32% K rate. His current numbers have him at 14.3% BB/20.3%K with an OBP of .406. Not too shabby.
He has power potential as suggested in his profile but that portion has not come out yet.
Credit to manager A.J Hinch for using him in positions to succeed in the batting order. Granted, this is just a small sample size but Hill seems to be growing as a player. The data suggests it and Hinch is utilizing not only just his defense but also his abilities to get on base on regular basis.