The speedy outfielder was the Detroit Tigers’ top pick in 2014.
In a bit of unexpected news on Monday afternoon the Detroit Tigers designated for assignment their former first-round pick Derek Hill. The DFA came as part of a small series of moves so the Tigers could welcome left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin back from the restricted list — however brief that return may be.
This may not necessarily mark the end of Derek Hill’s tenure with the organization — he could clear waivers and be outrighted to Toledo — but his chances of being a key contributor for the franchise have long since passed.
Derek Hill History
The Tigers took Hill with the 23rd overall pick out of Elk Grove High School in suburban Sacramento back in the first round of the 2014 draft. He was considered a top-25 prospect in the draft class by both Baseball America ($) and MLB Pipeline, with both sites focusing on his speed and defensive ability:
"Derek stands out most with his plus-plus speed. He can run the 60-yard dash in less than 6.4 second, and his quickness gives him tremendous range in center field and allows him to be a disruptive force on the bases."
Those tools showed up immediately in pro ball for Hill, as he quickly racked up a lengthy highlight reel full of spectacular catches in center field, and stole 36 bases in his first 100 pro games.
Unfortunately, Hill’s all-out style of play also led to bountiful injuries. From 2015 to 2018 Hill made seven different trips to the injured list and lost roughly 200 games of crucial development time. Through 2018 he was a .244 hitter with nine home runs in 357 career games.
Finally healthy in 2019, Hill had something of a breakthrough, hitting .243 with 14 home runs and 21 steals in 120 games for Double-A Erie. The Tigers sent him to the Arizona Fall League, and then added him to their 40-man roster that November.
Derek Hill made his MLB debut late in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but went just 1-for-11 in very limited action. He showed some signs of progress in 2021, but injuries struck again, including a shoulder sprain from crashing into the wall at Comerica Park, and a rib contusion from a scary collision with Akil Baddoo.
This year Hill strained his hamstring a few days before the season began. He posted a .559 OPS over 92 plate appearances with the Tigers, and just a .570 OPS over 33 games in the minors this year. Hill turns 27 this December, and it seems his hit tool just won’t ever arrive.
As mentioned earlier, it’s entirely possible Hill remains in the organization. But it also wouldn’t surprise us if the Tigers work out a last-minute trade. Hill doesn’t have much value for a basement dweller like Detroit, but on a contender he might be a useful 26th man who comes off the bench to swipe a base or take the field late in the game as a defensive replacement.