The Cubs Prospect All-Season Team series continues with a look at left field. Previous selections are listed at the conclusion of the piece and will be updated as more positions are revealed. Left was my biggest surprise when compiling the team because I was initially thinking the player in question had played mainly in center. But he actually played 68 games in left compared to 44 in center.
Darius Hill has done nothing but hit since he was selected in the 20th round of the 2019 draft. The career .299 hitter led minor league baseball with 166 hits this season and his .314 batting average also led Minor League baseball among players with a minimum 500 at-bats. Hill’s offensive prowess didn’t stop there, as he also set career highs in every offensive category. Overall, he slashed .314/.359/.453 in 574 plate appearances between Double-A Tennessee (201) and Triple-A Iowa (373).
When Hill digs into the box he is looking to do one thing: Make hard contact. He loves to spray line drives into left, using an opposite-field approach that resulted in 43.2% of his batted balls going that way. Hill goes up there swinging, but he doesn’t miss often. Though his 5.9% walk rate was the second-lowest in the Cubs system, his 13.4% strikeout rate was the fourth-lowest.
Darius Hill comes through! Gives the I-Cubs a 5-4 lead with a 2 out base hit down in the count 1-2. Professional Hitter. pic.twitter.com/KnK6lUa4MW
— Jordan Miller (@Miller_MiLB) August 6, 2022
As noted, the 6-foot-1 and 190-pound Hill uses the opposite field quite often. This season, however, he also showed a little more power to the pull side with career highs in both home runs (9) and doubles (36). I think this is in line with what we can expect the peak of his power to be, but I am interested to see how much of that can translate to the majors.
In the video below, you can see how his hands get through the hitting zone quickly generating the bat speed for the double.
Darius Hill double. pic.twitter.com/C3cTFR8s4Z
— Jordan Miller (@Miller_MiLB) September 8, 2022
Hill’s greatest area of impact for the Cubs is likely his defense. Although he doesn’t have great speed, he does a great job of reading the ball off the bat. He gets good jumps and takes clean routes when running down fly balls in left or center.
Darius Hill flashing the leather. pic.twitter.com/6jO9v9tb2a
— Jordan Miller (@Miller_MiLB) August 14, 2022
Frankly, I was surprised we didn’t see Hill in Chicago at some point toward the end of the season. I believe he can carve a niche in the majors as a fifth outfielder, largely because he has the kind of plate approach the Cubs covet and can play above-average defense right now. The big question is how much of his hit tool will translate against major league pitching.
Another question is the amount of quality outfield depth in the Cubs system. Even with Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario dealing with injury issues, Yonathan Perlaza remaining in the organization adds to a group that also includes Nelson Velázquez and Christopher Morel. With Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki holding down the corners and Pete Crow-Armstrong near major league ready, it is hard to see a path for Hill. He may ultimately need to find another organization to get his opportunity at the major league level.