Detroit Tigers Tab Prep Sensation Derek Hill In Round 1
Picking 23rd overall on Thursday night, the Detroit Tigers kicked off their portion of the 2014 MLB First Year Player Draft by selecting Derek Hill, an outfielder out of Elk Grove, California. Hill, whose father was a first round pick in 1982 and currently an employee of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the first prep outfielder selected in Round 1 by the Tigers since Cameron Maybin in 2005.
This ended the weeks of speculation in all the various Mock Drafts and twitter banter about the direction the Tigers would take with their first round pick. The consistent (if not “lazy”) chatter was about the Tigers proclivity for drafting power arms early in the draft. Much of the talk centered on Louisville Cardinals closer Nick Burdi and UVA closer Nick Howard due to their respective radar gun prowess. The Tigers may well have been leaning toward Howard but that became a moot point once he was tabbed by the Reds at pick 19. Burdi ended up falling to the Twins with the 46th selection on the evening.
The Tigers went young by getting the prep sensation from Southern California, Hill. With a pick that mirrors the Tigers’ new found direction on the big league level, Hill comes armed with speed and athleticism in abundance. The initial raves, which can be found through numerous outlets, are about his defensive ability as a center-fielder, his base-running potential, and his short compact swing with bat speed. The one ding you see most often is that there is a limit to his power potential with a definite lack of loft in his swing. In the end, time will tell as it does with all draft picks.
This is a player the vast majority of even the most ardent of baseball fans had never heard of one month ago, so we can’t really say “good pick” or “bad pick”. Hill be riding buses for a couple of years and it will be a process of readying himself for each step up the professional ladder. He could be the next Mike Trout…he could be the next Donavan Tate (and if you haven’t heard of Tate, that’s my point!). More likely he’s somewhere in the middle. The comps already thrown out there are “Torii Hunter” or “Denard Span”. Both solid big leaguers and a level most fans would be happy with if Hill were to reach, or exceed, those heights. Coincidently Hunter was the player named by Hill in his MLB Network interview immediately after his selection as the player he models himself after.
The decision to veer away from choosing a reliever with their first round pick is probably the most heartening from this view. The road is littered with failed or disappointing first round relievers over the last decade. The Tigers have seen Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth falter first hand. Others around baseball have their albatross picks with names like Josh Fields, Casey Weathers, and Royce Ring littering the first round draft resumes of several clubs. The value of a relief pitcher just isn’t equal to the value of a first round pick. Drafting that high really should be about trying to find a guy who is going to eventually take 30 starts per year or be an everyday presence in a major league lineup. Certainly there are exceptions from time to time, but you can’t build an organization on “exceptions” for the most part.
Should the Tigers be able to sign Hill away from his commitment to play college baseball at the University of Oregon, he’ll embark on the journey to The Show later this summer most likely with the Connecticut Tigers in the NY/Penn League for rookies. If the Tigers are really enamored with his immediate progress perhaps he gets a taste of Low A West Michigan for a couple of weeks as well. Estimated time of arrival in Detroit? April of 2018 sounds about right.
The Tigers wrapped up Day 1 of the draft by selecting Alabama Crimson Tide ace Spencer Turnbull. Turnbull is a big right-handed starter that is definitely in the mold of the power arm that the Tigers do like to load up on. At 6’4”/230lb, Turnbull comes at batters with mid-90’s velocity with some sink. His K-rates aren’t eye-popping and his walk-rate this past season wasn’t impressive. College stats aren’t the measuring stick most of the time however. Turnbull’s size, velocity, and potential obviously carried the day with Tigers talent evaluators over an elevated walk-rate.