Prospect Retro: Glenallen Hill
Glenallen Hill was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth round of the 1983 June draft, out of high school in Santa Cruz, California. He had a scholarship to Arizona State available, but decided to turn pro. Toolsy and strong, he hit an incredible .474/.540/.692 in 46 games for Medicine Hat in the Pioneer League at age 18. . .with 49 strikeouts in 46 games. The batting average had "FLUKE" written all over it, but was impossible to ignore. In sabermetric terms the strikeout rate was a caution sign, but a player like this today would get a minimum of a Grade C+ I think, maybe a B-? He didn't have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting championship.
Moved up to Florence in the South Atlantic League in 1984, Hill hit .239/.340/.414 with 16 homers, 30 steals, 63 walks, and 150 strikeouts in 440 at-bats. His batting average wasn't impressive, but he drew a lot of walks, hit homers, stole bases. . .and struck out a LOT. Grade C+....lots of potential, but can he refine it?
Hill was promoted to Kinston in the Carolina League in '85 and his batting average continued to slip. He hit 20 homers, but batted just .210. . .he stole 42 bases and drew 57 walks, but struck out an incredible 211 times in 466 at-bats. How on earth do you grade a player like that? His tools were obviously excellent, but his propensity to swing and miss was so extreme that projecting him to higher levels was problematic. However, he was still young and the tools still stood out. Grade C?
The Jays pushed him to Double-A in '86 and Hill responded, hitting .279/.332/504 with 31 homers, 18 steals, 39 walks, and 152 strikeouts in 137 games. . .still a lot of whiffs, but the power and speed carried forward and he added 69 points of batting average by reducing the strikeouts from "terrifying" to merely "very concerning.". I could see moving him back up to C+.
The Jays moved him up another level in '87, and he hit .235/.276/.394 with 16 homers and 22 steals for Triple-A Syracuse. His drew 25 walks with 152 strikeouts. By this point he had a clear reputation as an all-or-nothing player, although at age 22 he was still young enough to develop into something interesting.
Hill split '88 between Double-A and Triple-A, hitting .264/.340/.461 at the first level and .233/.300/.343 at the second level. . .a similar player nowadays would be looked at very skeptically by statheads, and even scouts would doubt whether the tools would translate into skills. Still a Grade C.
Things started to click for him in 1989: he hit .321/.370/.578 with 21 homers, 21 steals, 34 walks, and 107 strikeouts in 483 at-bats for Syracuse. It was apparent he'd never be a walk machine, but he'd learned enough about hitting to reduce his strikeout rate to less than one per game, and the results were obvious. I'd probably move a similar guy up to Grade C+ now, with a note that he could end up being better if he controlled the zone decently.
Hill hit .231/.281/.453 in a platoon role for the Blue Jays in 1990, then spent the next ten years in the majors as a platoon outfielder and occasional regular. His defense was non-existent at times, but his bat was dangerous. He finished with a career mark of .271/.321/.482. . .better than his minor league mark of .266/.334/.457. He was always erratic, but he managed to control the zone well enough for his natural power to make him very useful when deployed properly. He was particularly effective at age 29-31 for the Cubs and Giants in the 1994 through 1996.