Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Blue Jays prospect Aaron Hill
By John Sickels
Special to ESPN.com
Toronto Blue Jays
Position: SS Height: 5-11 Weight: 195 Born: 3/21/82 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Aaron Hill was a very successful college player at Louisiana State University. Named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 2003, hitting .358 with 27 doubles, he earned a first-round slot and was the 13th-overall player picked in the draft. He hit well in his pro debut, then put up solid (though not spectacular) numbers in Double-A last year. Ticketed for Triple-A in 2005, Hill should appear in Toronto sometime late in the season, then will have a shot at earning a major league job in 2006.
Physically, Hill's best attribute is his very strong (and accurate) throwing arm. He's not a big guy, but is a good overall athlete. Although he is reliable and alert in the field, many scouts have doubts about his ability to play shortstop on artificial turf, since his natural range is not particularly impressive. He positions himself well, and on grass his range isn't a severe problem, but on faster turf he lacks the pure quickness that most teams prefer. Many believe he'll wind up at second base or third base eventually, although it is unclear at this point what his final destination will be. On offense, Hill features a quick bat and excellent strike-zone judgment. Plate discipline is his best overall attribute: he seldom swings at bad pitches, and does not strike out much. Hill has yet to fully tap his home run power, but scouts anticipate that he'll be good for 15-20 homers at maturity. His swing is compact, with pop to all fields. He should contribute a solid batting average and OBP. Hill has good running speed, but he hasn't stolen many bases as a pro, although this probably has more to do with organizational philosophy than anything else. Managers and coaches praise his intellect, work ethic and emotional makeup; he has good leadership skills.
Hill's numbers at Double-A New Hampshire last year were OK, but not spectacular. However, within park and league context he performed well. His Major League Equivalent averages (MLE) says he's capable of hitting .270-plus at the major league level right now with a good OBP. Given his place on the development curve, he projects as a .280-plus hitter down the road. The question will be how much home run power he develops. Considering his plate discipline and quick bat, scouts are optimistic that the home runs will come. Even if they don't, his batting average and OBP will make him valuable although likely fitting better at second base than at third.
Hill has had no significant health problems.
What to expect
Destined for Triple-A, Hill will be one of the most interesting players to watch at that level in 2005. Will he increase his power production? Will the Jays be satisfied with his defense, or will he switch positions in the infield? The answers to these questions will determine his status for 2006. Although Hill likely doesn't have superstar talent, he has solid skills across the board, and should be a solid major league player wherever he ends up.
John Sickels is the author of The 2005 Baseball Prospect Book. The book ships on Feb. 1, and can be ordered only at Johnsickels.com. He is also the author of Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation, which can be ordered online or at your local bookstore. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife Jeri, son Nicholas and two happy cats.