The Nationals have selected the contract of outfielder Derek Hill from Triple-A Rochester, per a team announcement. In a corresponding 26-man roster move, center fielder Victor Robles was placed on the 10-day IL due to lower back spasms. Washington already had a vacancy on the 40-man roster, so a corresponding move was not necessary in that regard. MASNsports.com’s Bobby Blanco noted prior to the announcement that Hill was in the Nationals’ clubhouse.
Hill 27, was the No. 23 overall pick by the Tigers back in the 2014 draft but has yet to deliver on that draft status and several years ranking among Detroit’s top farmhands. He spent parts of three big league seasons with the Tigers, appearing in 95 games and taking 254 plate appearances from 2020-22. The resulting .240/.291/.339 slash line was underwhelming and ultimately led to a DFA for Hill just prior to last summer’s trade deadline. The Mariners claimed him a few days later but outrighted him off the 40-man roster in October. Hill elected minor league free agency and caught on with the Nats.
It’s been a brilliant start to the season for Hill up in Rochester, where he’s turned in a .324/.381/.533 batting line with eight homers, 10 doubles, a pair of triples and 10 steals (in 11 tries). His 7.8% walk rate is a bit below average, but his 21.6% strikeout rate is also slightly lower than that of an average big league hitter. It’s Hill’s third season with time spent at the Triple-A level, and he now carries a .283/.344/.470 batting line at that level in an even 600 plate appearances. Hill is out of minor league options, so the Nats can’t send him back down unless they first designate him for assignment and pass him through outright waivers.
Robles, 26, will head to the injured list in the midst of his best showing since a 21-game cup of coffee with the Nats back in 2018. The longtime top prospect is hitting .299/.385/.364 in 126 plate appearances this season, with the uptick in production largely attributable to a career-low 14.3% strikeout rate. Robles’ 8.7% walk rate is also the second-highest mark he’s posted since his 2017 MLB debut and a far sight better than the career 5.9% mark he carried into the current season.
The Nationals haven’t yet provided a timetable for Robles’ return, but Hill figures to see plenty of time in center field while Robles is out. Hill is in the lineup hitting eighth and playing center this afternoon. Lane Thomas and Alex Call are the only other outfielders to log any innings in center this season, but Call is currently in Triple-A Rochester and Thomas has just 11 innings there.