LAKELAND, Fla. – Baseball runs in Derek Hill’s blood.
The Detroit Tigers prospect comes from a family that includes his father Orsino, who played minor-league ball for 12 seasons and is now a scout with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Given Orsino’s extensive experience playing professionally, the younger Hill’s head is expectedly filled with plenty of baseball knowledge.
“He taught me so much that I think I have a little bit too much information right now,” said Derek, who turned 19 last December. “[It] kind of hurts me now, but in the future, I know it’s going to pan out and help.”
In his senior season at Elk Grove High School last year, Derek hit .500 to go along with 29 stolen bases. It was the kind of season that can get a player noticed.
For the toolsy centre fielder, it was enough to get him picked 23rd overall in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft.
“It was pretty surreal, I remember – I think about it every day,” said Hill. “Every time something reminds me of it … it gives me a smile.”
Getting picked so early comes with perks, like a $2-million signing bonus that Hill used to buy his mom a car.
It also comes with expectations, and while Tigers fans are hopeful that they’ve found their centre fielder of the future, the top prospect knows it’ll take him a few years to reach the majors.
When asked what he needs to work on to get there, Hill is honest about his shortcomings: “For the most part I’d probably say plate discipline. But that’ll come with maturity and more at-bats.”
He’s aiming to get called up by the end of 2017, before making the team for good the following spring. If and when he does make it, cavernous Comerica Park awaits his defensive expertise in the outfield.
“I love it. I went up there for the pre-draft workout and I was taking a few fly balls and I was like, ‘I can see this as home right now,’ said Hill. “[Defence] would probably be the thing I take the most pride in.”
For this year, the teenager knows exactly what he’d like to accomplish in his first full season of professional ball.
“[I’d like] 55-plus stolen bags and 50-plus base-hit bunts, [to] hit above .275, and hit 10 home runs,” said Hill. “[But] if I run into a few more?
“I not going to complain.”