Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: No. 19 Garrett Hill

Erie SeaWolves starting pitcher Garrett Hill throws against the Harrisburg Senators.
Erie SeaWolves starting pitcher Garrett Hill throws against the Harrisburg Senators. /

We look at RHP Garrett Hill, who ranks 19th on our list of Detroit Tigers prospects.

We put together the Top 20 after a few of the contributors sent in their Top 20 and Chris Brown did the math and that’s how we came up with our top 20 prospects in the Detroit Tigers system. You can see the players ranked 11-20 here, the top ten here, and five more prospects who just missed here.

Today, we look at right-hander Garrett Hill, who, like a few pitchers in the system in 2021, was able to raise his profile to be among one of the better arms in the Detroit Tigers system.

Garrett Hill’s background

Hill is from Petaluma, California, the same town that Spencer Torkelson grew up in. After high school, he played junior college for the Santa Rosa Bearcubs along with his twin brother, Evan, who threw left-handed. He had Tommy John surgery while attending Santa Rosa in 2016.

Hill went 7-2 with an ERA of 2.83 in 15 starts in his sophomore season, which earned him Co-Pitcher of the Year in the Big 8 Conference. That earned him a scholarship to San Diego State, home of pitchers such as Stephen Strasburg, Addison Reed and an older reference, Bud Black. He spent one season, going 6-3 with an ERA of 3.91 in 78.1 innings of work. The Detroit Tigers would select Hill in the 26th round of the 2018 draft.

In his first season at then Low-A West Michigan in 2019, Hill in his first five starts, did not allow a run in his first 26 innings of work, allowing 10 hits, striking out 30 and held batters to just a .114 batting average. By the end of May, he got the call up to Lakeland and continued to pitch well, allowing just 53 hits over 85.2 innings of work, punching out 87 and holding batters to just a .180 average.

Hill throws a fastball that throws in the mid-90s. It appears at some points in 2021 this was more a of a cut fastball. His changeup is a good second plus pitch and posses a slider. His mechanics are repeatable and put up impressive strikeout per 9 numbers at West Michigan (11.4) and Erie (12.8).

Garrett Hill Strengths

Hill has shown he can get ahead in counts early, posting a 58.6% first strike rate based on a four-pitch mix he was able to sequence well. He was able to raise his profile the higher he got with 99 strikeouts in 75 innings of work. Plus, an impressive AFL stint in which Jim Callis of called him an unranked prospect who emerged.

His ability to not allow home runs was impressive in 2021. Between West Michigan, Erie, and the Arizona Fall League, he allowed just three in 88.2 innings pitched this season. What’s an even more impressive number is he allowed 3 over 123.3 innings in his first full season in the minors in 2019. He can get batters to ground out, which FanGraphs highlighted back in September to the tune of 42.9% at West Michigan and in Erie, 56.8% but just in 19 innings pitched.

Garrett Hill Weakness

His fastball sits in the mid to low 90s with some cutting action that seemed to appear during the AFL All-Star Game. So why is that a weakness? Hill has just 19 innings of work above High-A ball so it is unknown what hitters could do to it on the higher levels.

As far as an innings eater is concern, he only pitched over six innings or more just three times in 2021. It makes sense why his potential future could be a spot starter or long reliever, but that is me just trying to make a weakness.

Our take on Garrett Hill

Hill, along with Beau Brieske last season, emerged as late-round draft picks the Tigers had who went above just filling up minor league roster spots. Both of them showed potential and despite his good season in 2021, he was left off the 40-man roster, so any team could pick him up in the Rule 5 draft.

Hill’s command of his four pitches that includes the plus change-up and a solid breaking ball could make him a good long reliever. If Hill does not get picked in the Rule 5 draft,  more than likely we could see him start the season in Erie.

Long-term wise, if he continues his progress, he could either be an emergency starter or middle relief. For the Detroit Tigers, this is just progress in terms of development of late-round draft picks. Their ability to have a few choices boasts well in 2022 and beyond.