DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers made speedy Elk Grove (Calif.) High center fielder Derek Hill their first-round pick.
Hill comes from a solid baseball family. Darryl Strawberry is his cousin, and his father, Orsino Hill, is the Los Angeles Dodgers scout for amateur talent in Northern California.
There was some speculation that the Dodgers would tap Hill with the No. 22 pick overall. But they drafted high school pitcher Grant Holmes, and Detroit took Hill — who idolizes Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter — with the very next selection.
Hill, 18, has signed with the University of Oregon so he has more signing leverage than a college player. He’s considered an excellent defender with plus range and an above-average arm. Hill (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) is a line-drive hitter with little power, but scouts believe his big frame will allow for power to develop. His skills are a perfect match for spacious Comerica Park, where the Tigers play.
Hill batted .500 as a senior without a homer, but had 11 doubles and seven triples with 30 RBI and 26 runs in 29 games. He’s been clocked at 6.44 seconds in the 60-yard dash and stole 18 bases. Hill has three homers in three varsity seasons.
"It’s absolutely surreal," Hill told reporters from MLB Network’s Studio 42. "I’ve always looked up to (Hunter) ever since I was little. I’ve always modeled my game after him — on and off the field. It’s a great feeling to be a part of his organization."
Hill is only the third non-pitcher Detroit has selected among its last 13 first-round picks. The other two position players drafted in that round since 2000 are current San Diego Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin and Tigers rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos. Both high school players reached the majors within three years of being drafted.
"The Tigers organization is excited to select Derek Hill this evening," Tigers Vice President, Amateur Scouting and Special Assistant to the General Manager, David Chadd said in a statement. "Derek is an excellent hitter, a great defensive outfielder and has electric speed. We’re pleased to have the opportunity to add him to our organization."
Strawberry, who is four inches taller than Hill, was the 1983 National League Rookie of the Year with the New York Mets. The talented outfielder’s career burned out early, but the power-hitting outfielder finished second in MVP voting in 1988, when he had 39 homers and 101 RBI.