Let’s face it, at a thin position like second base, if someone steps up and looks like he can be at least a consistently strong performer, you want to know how sustainable it is. That’s the case with the Diamondbacks’ Aaron Hill, who’s been hit-or-miss throughout his career, but has shown some strength recently. Looking ahead to 2013, just what can we expect from this guy?
Since getting traded to the Diamondbacks towards the end of the 2011 season, Hill has been one of baseball’s best offensive second basemen. If you don’t believe me, just look at the numbers.
Arizona seems to suit him just fine, doesn’t it? It makes sense, while the home park he left, Rogers Centre, isn’t exactly a pitcher’s yard, Arizona’s Chase Field ranks as one of the best in the game. It’s similar to Coors Field in that it’s not a hitter’s yard because of a short fence, but also because the ball travels well there. The fences are actually relatively deep, meaning outfielders play back and bloop hits fall with some frequency. But the desert heat (when the dome’s open) and incredible hitter’s backdrop helps power hitters in their quests. Few parks have all of that working in their favor.
The other thing working in Hill’s factor is second base. When we were preparing the Draft Kit, second base was the hardest to come up with a long list of players with any fantasy relevance. The position is so bad that Chase Utley, who played only half of the 2012 season, was still a Top 12 second baseman in the counted stats last year. No extrapolations, either. Playing half of the year, he had more runs, homers, and RBI than other second basemen who played 150 or more games.
With that power, you’d think a drawback would be that he strikes out a lot and brings a low contact rate. Well, that’s not true. Hill’s only struck out 100 times once in a season, and over 90 one other time. That’s a pretty steady rate, overall and would indicate that he should have a high batting average year in and year out.
The lack of K’s would indicate that he should be a consistent hitter year in and year out, but he’s not. Hill hit .205 in 2010 and .246 in 2011. That season’s average was aided by a torrid finish in the desert, as he was a .225 hitter with the Blue Jays. This isn’t deviating between .300 and .260. If a hitter is just as likely to be under .240 as he is around .300, you are taking a pretty serious risk on him.
Another problem is the games played. While Hill played 156 games in 2012, he played under 140 in 2010 and 2011. That wouldn’t appear to be a massive problem, but a middle infielder with a slight history of injuries in recent seasons is troubling, especially when he’s entering his Age 31 season.
Something else that really concerns me is just how much that lineup can move around. Hill could bat leadoff, or really anywhere at the top of the order. But he’s also an historically inconsistent player in a lineup that can be shuffled in dozens of ways. So, batting anywhere 1-5, there’s a lot of value. But it’s not hard to imagine Hill being dropped to the bottom third of the order, which is troubling.
Let’s take a look at our Draft Kit numbers.
The number I am having the hardest time buying is the .269 average. Guys like Hill rarely ever split the difference. He can hit below .240 or above .300 with pretty much equal frequency, but rarely ever goes right between the two.
But I am high on Hill this year. The Diamondbacks have a solid top-to-bottom order, so there’s plenty of protection there. While his inconsistency could have him jumping around the order at times, other hitters in the lineup also battle consistency issues, like Cody Ross. Others, like Gerardo Parra, have never been everyday players, while guys like Adam Eaton are talented, but young, also a sign that inconsistency could come. All of that means that Hill should see plenty of time in the upper part of the Arizona order this year.
We have him as the sixth best second baseman and 62nd ranked player, which would have him going somewhere in the fifth or sixth round, depending on how big your league is. Generally speaking, I agree with that ranking. I’d say to not reach for him, because he’s getting up there in age, but I also wouldn’t pass on him if you’re in that range and hoping to get him in the next round. Go between 60 and 70 with Hill.