Cub Perspective: Darius Hill

Hill of Darius, outer field

Born in Dallas, Texas, August 19, 1997.
Drafted by the Cubs in the 20th round in 2019 from West Virginia

The first Myrtle Beach series of the 2021 season was in Charleston. The Charleston RiverDogs would finish with the best record in the league, and it wasn’t close. They were trotting SEC and ACC veterans against players who could very well have been assigned to short-season ball, if the classification still existed. Nonetheless, Darius Hill hit that first streak well in Low-A and got a promotion after just over a week. In seven games, Hill had 12 hits in 32 at-bat, including three doubles. Not only was he promoted, but he completely jumped on High-A South Bend.

And also started hitting Double-A.

Presumably you’ve played Chutes and Ladders. In the board game, each player grabs a stake and moves it around the board 100 squares. On certain squares, the player advances on the board. In others, a demotion occurs. In Chutes and Ladders, there is no real strategy. (I’ve rated four board games below, from no strategy to low strategy, superior strategy, and high strategy.)

I will be honest. I thought Hill would be over his head in Double-A. He wasn’t and remained among the team’s best hitters until an injury ended his season. Hill had a very acceptable .694 OPS. (The league average was 0.714.) When paired with speed and three-point defense, you’ll win, especially for a 20th round.

West Virginia, whether you know it or not, was in the Big 12 for Hill’s entire time there. The Big 12 is a Power Four baseball conference. His numbers, whatever they were, were deserved. His OPS career there was 0.860, as a three-position outfielder, with some speed. People like to think they can plan which players will develop effectively in which college or professional seasons. It’s largely layered. We have the applicable and correct information. Until that changes.

As much as people might think the draft would get interesting with the trades, the reason the NFL Draft trades are interesting is the combination of familiarity and immediacy. If you’re committed to an NFL team and know enough about college football to be dangerous, swapping a second-round pick in 2023 and a third in 2024 to earn six spots might enrage or appease you. In college, few people prioritize college baseball games. If there is a work stoppage this offseason, college could be all there longer than expected.

To follow a college team, you don’t have to watch every game. Learn the basics. Who is the head coach? Who is the pitching coach? Who was their last guy drafted? Is their baseball radio network educational or run by ignorant locals? Quality comes from everywhere. Since people are likely to stick around longer if their team is good, picking a quality team from a quality league can help.

In Chutes and Ladders, if you land on square 87, you jump to 24. If you fall to 28, you jump to 84. Minor league player development is rarely so immediate, although serious injuries can be catastrophic. Taking care of players, at all levels, as they compete against better competition is a pleasure. You are welcome to consider a team for February if the other calamity strikes.

Hill could be in Double-A or Triple-A in April. What he will do there will be determined when there is information to sort out.

No strategy: Candyland
Minimum strategy: Parcheesi
Reasonable strategy: Stratego
Strategy defined: Connect Four

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