In need of some depth in the field, the Detroit Tigers departed from their usual draft plan centered around power pitching Thursday night, selecting outfielder Derek Hill from Elk Grove, California (HS) with the 23rd overall pick.
Hill, who's father Orsino Hill was a 24th overall selection in 1982 by the Cincinnati Reds and who's cousin is Darryl Strawberry, comes from quality baseball bloodlines. "He's been more of an advisor," Hill said of his relationship with Strawberry, a former high-flying, hard-hitting outfielder. Having these connections, especially with his father, helped guide Hill quickly.
"That was a major part in my early childhood development, seeing how the business side works and how the game side works," Hill said
As for his own game on the field, Hill is a speedy, lanky outfielder who compares favorably to a young Torii Hunter. An extremely young Hunter, considering Hill is currently a high schooler.
For Hill, that comparison would probably be a complement. Thursday night, when asked by MLB Network's Sam Ryan who his favorite current Tiger was, Hill calmly responded with Hunter's name nearly without hesitation.
That theme continued Friday. "Ever since I was little I wanted to be him, he's pretty much been my idol since I was six," Hill said Friday morning. Tigers' scouting director David Chadd took that comparison a bit further, saying he thought of both Hunter and Austin Jackson when watching Hill's game. "He's always running," Chadd said.
Those comparisons come mostly thanks to defense. Many consider Hill to be the best defensive center fielder available in the 2014 draft. While his bat isn't as good yet, Detroit and others see the potential. "It's been a while since I've seen the defensive instincts like Derek has. He's got 80 speed. Power will come," Chadd said, adding that Hill showed flashes of that power at Comerica Park during a workout, noting it was a tough place for a high schooler to judge.
In the second round, the Tigers returned to their roots, selecting the best power pitcher available in Spencer Turnbull from the University of Alabama. "We had definitely been following him all spring," Chadd said, adding that the team sees him as a starter first and foremost despite his relieving experience, comparing him to Tommy Hunter of the Baltimore Orioles.
"He throws strikes, a fastball 90-95, and is a tough guy to hit," Chadd said. "I think opponents only hit something like .192 against him all season."
With Hill safely a Tiger, Chadd admitted surprise at how the draft went, but was no less ecstatic considering it provided the team with the opportunity to land Hill
As for those potential signing issues considering Hill has committed to play collegiately at Oregon? Perhaps a bit overblown. "We're definitely feeling really strong about the pro side right now," Hill said.
Considering the relationships he has and the bloodlines he maintains, there's no reason Hill shouldn't be feeling good. He's been selected by the team who employs his idol, and could have the opportunity to chase a dream quickly.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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