Sam Hilliard, OF, COL

Only playing about every other day, Sam Hilliard has started out 5-for-28 slow. What do his minor league numbers tell us he is capable of?

Video courtesy of Baseball Census
  • Born: February 21, 1994
  • B/T: Left/Left
  • 6’5″, 236-lbs
  • Drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 2015 June Amateur Draft from Wichita State University

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

This time only, I not only put down the minor league level, I also noted the city where Hilliard played. This is something you must do with Rockies’ prospects. Look at the above table and you’ll see a very typical progression for such a prospect:

  1. In A+ Lancaster, a place where batters do great things, he looked like a fantastic prospect, other than a high strikeout rate, and a walk rate that wasn’t quite what you want to see, but not bad. He had speed, he had power, he got on base.
  2. In AA Hartford, a place where batters no longer have the advantage, Hilliard didn’t get on base as much, his power predictably dropped, his speed cooled off a bit, his walk rate stayed the same (that’s good), and his strikeout rate spiked. Not such a good prospect now, is he?
  3. In AAA Albuquerque, a place like hitting on the moon, the power spiked (naturally), the walk rate increased (that’s always good, but power is so enhanced there, pitcher’s walk rates spike for everyone), the strikeouts slid back a bit, and the speed slid back a bit.
  4. In MLB, in a place I don’t have to tell you enhances batters, his OBP was almost as good as his A+ high-water mark, his power spiked even more, his strikeout rate dropped, and his walk rate held at the high level, while his speed was cut almost in half.

What’s the point of this if Hilliard is going to be playing in Coors anyway? After all, who cares of Albuquerque inflates numbers, so does Coors! That’s true, but he only plays half his games there, and it’s important not to lose our heads over Colorado prospects just because they are tearing up Lancaster or Albuquerque. Look to Hartford for a more realistic view of what his road numbers might be like in the majors.

Not much of a split.

2017 he’s hitting in Lancaster.

2018 he’s hitting in Hartford.

2019 he’s hitting in Albuquerque and Coors.

Yup, there it is in graphical form.

The Scouts

Warnings

He hasn’t hit well in the majors yet, though like most Colorado prospects, he has to wait for regular playing time and it’s hard to hit well when you aren’t hitting regularly.

Is his speed coming back?

What’s his true power level?

Conclusion

He’s got power, and he’s got speed, and he knows how to draw a walk. He’s got a good arm to play wherever they want to play him in the outfield.

But the strikeouts are part of his game too, so that might cut into his BA/OBP.

If he gets playing time, he’s capable of being a solid major league regular. Will the Rockies give him that chance?

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