Focused on developing a center fielder of the future, the Detroit Tigers entered the 2014 draft with that position at the top of their board. Making sure not to waste time at picking a player that could one day be the face of the Tigers outfield, the club selected Derek Hill with the 23rd overall pick.
Playing his amateur baseball at Elk Grove High School in California, the organization knew Hill’s development would take a little time, so they traded for Anthony Gose in the off-season to fill their current need in center, while Hill develops his game in the minors for a couple years before he’s ready to make the jump to the majors.
Working hard to develop into a complete center fielder, the young prospect is still adjusting to hitting professional pitching, as you see more developed breaking balls in pro ball than you do in high school baseball.
“In pro ball I have started to look for rotation more on pitches,” explained Hill. “I’m just trying to mile them more. Obviously in high school you don’t see the same caliber of breaking balls you see in pro ball.”
Another area Hill is working on in his offensive game is his mental approach at the plate; Advancing in this area thanks to the tutorage of West Michigan Whitecaps hitting coach Phil Clark, who has helped Hill a lot through spring training and with his early arrival in the Midwest League.
“Phil Clark is a great guy,” said Hill. “He took me under his wing in spring training. He has been working with me both mentally and physically. Phil has done a lot for me on the mental side of the game. It’s a big help for me personally.”
Currently sporting a .204/.306/.259 slash line with the Whitecaps, Hill is still working on his plate approach a bit. But fans shouldn’t get down on Hill, as he is 2.4 years younger than most of his Midwest League competition and he still has time to develop into the hitter the Tigers expect him to be in the near future.
“My plate approach is definitely coming,” explained Hill. “It’s going to be a process. I just need to get at-bats underneath my belt and it’ll come along with more repetition. It’s not something that will come over night.”
One area Hill has had little problems adjusting to in professional baseball is his defensive play in the outfield. With center fielders being the captains of the outfield, Hill likes to take charge out there, while making sure to cover as much ground as possible.
“I have always been the captain of the outfield,” said Hill. “I’ve never been able to step back and let the corners take over. I always had to go after it in high school, as that was expected of me. It’s a little different in professional baseball knowing that my left and right fielders can go get the ball too. But it’s pretty much the same.”
Showing his excellent range through the first month of the season, Hill has only committed one error through his first 28 Midwest League chances in center. The young prospect has also showcased his excellent arm in center already picking up three outfield assists since early April.
Hill was influenced to play baseball by his father Orsino Hill, a former minor leaguer that turned into a professional baseball scout. While his father has extensive knowledge of the game of baseball, Derek says his father wants him to experience everything for himself in professional baseball.
“My Dad was the biggest baseball influence on me growing up,” said Hill. “My Dad taught me everything I know about baseball and being a man. At times it seems like he taught me too much, but I’m sure it’ll come in handy down the road.”
“My Dad didn’t say much about playing minor league baseball,” he added. “He always said you need to experience it for yourself. Basically he said you need to wing it the best you can, as there isn’t a lot he can tell me outside of stories of things that happened to him in the minors. He knew it was going to be different for me, because we’re in different situations. He just wants me to experience it for myself and take away my own memories.”
Be sure to follow Derek Hill as he works hard to make many memories in professional baseball for years to come.