Pitchers and catchers have finally reported. In fact, the entire team finally showed up on Sunday. It’s beginning to smell a lot like baseball. The first game played against a true opponent will be played on Saturday so there’s not a ton of analysis to be done, just yet.
One player who is already getting attention early on, however, is 28-year-old left-hander Tim Hill. Hill was drafted by the Royals out of Bacone College in Muscogee, Oklahoma in Round 32 of the 2014 draft. Since joining the Royals farm system he has consistently struck out more than a batter per-inning but also struggled with walks and home runs.
When he joined AA Northwest Arkansas last season, though, he managed to reduce both numbers to far more useful levels. He struck out 75 in 69 innings for the Naturals, while posting a 4.26 ERA and walking just 2.9 per-nine-innings with just two home runs allowed. The abnormal angle of his throwing motion also allows Hill to get a lot of ground balls - he hovers near 60% for his career in that category. The lefty missed the entire 2015 season due to injury, which has slowed his progress through the farm system.
As you can see in the video above the most interesting thing about the 6’2”, 200-pound left-hander is his side-arm delivery that is very nearly submarine-style. He uses this delivery to completely obliterate left-handed batters; in AA, where he spent most of last season, lefties hit only .168 off of him while righties hit .339 per MiLB.
Royals Farm Report has his pitch repertoire in a post from earlier this off-season:
Hill’s fastball sits around 88-91 and has sharp armside movement. He throws a frisbee type breaking ball that has some sink but more movement to glove side. I’m not sure if he calls it a curve or a slider but used a curve motion when showing it warming up. He also features a deceptive change up. To be more effective against RHHs Hill is going to have to make that better and command the fastball better.
At age 28, the California native is a reliever-only candidate - he has never started a single game, professionally. The Royals added him to the 40-man roster this off-season and it’s easy to see why other teams might have wanted to take a flyer on him with his unorthodox throwing motion and a recently discovered ability to reduce the number of walks and home runs he allowed.
The Royals are in a bind right now, in regards to their bullpen. They signed Wily Peralta earlier this off-season but also lost Mike Minor and Peter Moylan to free agency while trading away Joakim Soria, Scott Alexander, and Ryan Buchter. Speaking of Alexander, Hill’s results are actually pretty reminiscent of the erstwhile closer though they have entirely different approaches to getting there. Alexander’s results would probably be Hill’s ceiling. The Royals are going to need bodies in the bullpen whether or not they think they can compete, this year, so now might be as good a time as any to see if Hill can contribute at the big-league level.