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Nick Hill And A Projection Experiment

A great deal of work has gone into trying to calculate Major League equivalencies of minor league numbers so that we may be given a better understanding of a young player's future. Sometimes these equivalencies work really well. Other times they don't. Being that it remains an inexact science, then, here I will attempt to project Nick Hill as a big league starter based only on his scouting report, using a grand total of zero statistics.

  • Report: Lefty
    Consequence: Hill will face a very disproportionate amount of right-handed hitters, likely between 75-80%
  • Report: High-80s extreme sinking fastball
    Consequence: Hill will generate a ton of groundballs and be especially difficult for lefties to square up. He will also likely pitch to contact and not rack up many strikeouts.
  • Report: Best changeup in the system, per Baseball America
    Consequence: Hill will be able to avoid the Sean Green problem of having nothing to throw to opposite-handed hitters. By having multiple offerings, he should keep from posting too extreme a platoon split.
  • Report: Solid curve
    Consequence: Curves, like changeups, work all right against opposite-handed hitters. But curves, unlike changeups, can also be used often and effectively against same-handed guys. This pitch will allow Hill to get his strikeouts, as it gives lefties a breaking ball to worry about while giving righties a pitch that breaks in the opposite direction of his fastball and change.
  • Report: Three-quarters delivery, sort of short-arms the ball
    Consequence: That he goes three-quarters instead of over the top means his platoon split will likely be a little wider, despite the change and curve. Short-arm action probably adds a little deception, which may not help, but couldn't hurt, unless Rob Johnson is catching.
  • Report: Commands the strike zone
    Consequence: Hill's a strike-thrower. The best pitchers in baseball throw strikes, miss bats, and keep the ball on the ground; Hill is capable of two of those. By being able to work in and around the zone, and also by being fairly hittable, Hill shouldn't ever have much of a walk problem.

I think all of this information gives us a pretty good profile. With that kind of sinker, we can guess that Hill will be a 50% groundball guy - maybe even 55%. He won't get a ton of strikeouts, especially since he'll mostly be facing righties, but his secondary stuff is good enough to keep him from Nate Cornejo territory. The combination of command and hittability will keep the walks down.

So let's go ahead and plug in 5 K/9, 3 BB/9, 50% groundballs, and a normal HR/FB rate. The end result? A park-neutral FIP right in the 4.4-4.5 range, putting Hill in some decent company. By skillset, he comes out looking pretty similar to, say, Paul Maholm, and that particular profile we just put together puts him out in front of one Jarrod Washburn, who can only dream of having Hill's ability to interest the infield.

That's a pretty good back-of-the-rotation pitcher, and that's not even his maximum upside. Now, granted, Hill isn't exactly a high-ceiling kind of guy, but there's room for him to generate more groundballs or allow fewer walks than I just wrote, which would obviously work to his benefit. While 5/3/50% would be cool, that by no means represents the maxing out of his ability.

Nick Hill is no guarantee to make the Major Leagues, and given that he's only made 19 starts as a professional, he still has to prove himself capable of holding his own in a rotation. He has some development ahead of him yet. However, despite being a prospect, possessing that kind of skillset makes Hill a solid bet going forward. Groundball/command guys without strikeout stuff don't often turn into aces, but they do turn into cheap starter talent, and though Hill's still got work to do, he's well on his way to having a pretty good career.