The Tigers are calling up former first-round pick Derek Hill to make his MLB debut in the wake of JaCoby Jones’ season-ending hand fracture, manager Ron Gardenhire announced in an appearance on 97.1 The Ticket this morning (Twitter link).
Hill, 24, hasn’t lived up to his first-round draft status and only ranks 28th among Detroit farmhands at Baseball America. However, he’s a game-changing defender with excellent speed who’ll be tasked with at least helping to replace the quietly productive Jones. Hill spent last season in Double-A, where he posted a .243/.311/.394 batting line that actually checked in better than the league average in that extremely pitcher-friendly setting (108 wRC+). He slugged a career-best 14 home runs and swiped 21 bases as well, but a 27.9 percent strikeout rate also serves to underscore the concerns that scouts harbor with regard to his hit tool.
Even if Hill doesn’t prove himself capable of holding down an everyday role with the Tigers, his speed and high-end glove create the potential for him to be a fixture on the team’s roster for the next few years. A platoon arrangement seems unlikely, as the right-handed-hitting Hill has generally fared better against righties than lefties in the minors, but he could nevertheless be a valuable fourth outfielder with some power, above-average speed and strong glovework to back up at any of the three outfield slots as necessary.
The Tigers have won six straight games to boost their record to 17-16, leaving them just one game back of the Blue Jays for the No. 8 seed in the American League under this year’s expanded postseason format.