The 2021 MLB Draft will begin on July 11, 2021, in Atlanta, Ga. We take a look at LSU right-hander Jaden Hill, a talented pitching prospect who is set to miss the entire year with a UCL tear.
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Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU
Weight: 234 lbs.
2019: 2G, 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2 R, 0 HR, 3 BB, 11 K
2020: 4G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.51 WHIP, 0 R, 0 HR, 5 BB, 17 K
2021: 7G, 2-3, 6.67 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 23 R, 3 HR, 12 BB, 25 K
There’s a lot to like about Hill’s repertoire, as well as obvious potential for further growth with most of his pitches. At this point, his control presents the biggest concern, though that could have merely been caused by the injury he was battling this season. Still, it’s tough to know for sure, so his command issues will be something that scouts take into account as they peruse all of this player’s pros and cons.
For starters, the fastball is clearly Hill’s greatest strength. He throws the pitch hard and with ease, and there is some hope that he can eventually reach triple-digits out of the bullpen on the other side of his surgery. After all, he’s already reached 98 mph in-game and 100 mph during a bullpen session. The pitch can be a true weapon for Hill.
The LSU right-hander also employs a very impressive slider. He throws this pitch with incredible velocity and nasty late movement; he will have no trouble using it to retire right-handed batters in the pros. Hill also has a neat changeup that features a significant drop in velocity. He’s spent plenty of years mastering this pitch and is now at the point where he can use it in juxtaposition to his fastball to create massive deception for batters. Finally, Hill also throws a solid cutter. This pitch might need some more development, but its potential couldn’t be more obvious. This pitch can be expected to reach the low-90s eventually, and it features a crucial spin and drop combo that could make batters look absolutely foolish at the plate.
Control has been one of the major concerns for Hill, who averaged 3.72 walks per nine innings over his last two college seasons. Specifically, in 2021, his control was a significant concern. While his injury is likely to blame here, scouts won’t cut him any slack because of his arm issues. Tommy John surgery or not, Hill’s control is going to be graded quite low among MLB scouting departments this spring. Other than solidifying the pitches in his arsenal so they work together to create a cohesive unit, control will be the biggest thing Hill must work on.
There has also been some concern surrounding Hill’s ability to pitch late into games. He averaged just 4.1 innings per start in college and might not have what it takes to be a starter who is frequently counted on for six or seven innings. Because of this, using him in the bullpen certainly cannot be ruled out, especially considering his velocity and arsenal of pitches. Of course, he’ll be drafted and developed as a starter, and any potential move to the bullpen certainly won’t come right away.
Pro Comparison: Nathan Eovaldi
There are plenty of similarities between Eovaldi, a right-hander for the Red Sox, and Hill. The former is slightly smaller, checking in at 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, but they share similar pitching metrics that can’t be ignored. For starters, Eovaldi throws a low-90s cutter, upper-90s fastball, and mid-to-upper-80s changeup and slider. The former Dodgers draft pick isn’t an elite player, but he’s still a hard-throwing pitcher with solid “stuff” who would be a middle-of-the-rotation arm on most clubs. Any team that drafts Hill would be happy with him having a career similar to Eovaldi, who has spent 10 years (and counting) in the Majors.
Draft Projection: Mid-First Round
Hill isn’t a super risky pick. However, taking him in the early portion of the first round might be challenging to process. There are clear concerns about his control and durability as he returns from the torn UCL. Further, an eventual move to the bullpen is not out of the question. All in all, the presence of the “unknown” factor means Hill will likely be a mid-first-round pick with upside.
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