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Bob Sacamento
01-08-2006, 12:33 AM
This is the third installment of CubsHub.com's Scouting Reports on the Cubs top prospects. The previous were Felix Pie (http://www.cubshub.com/article.php?story=2005122614124242) and Angel Guzman (http://www.cubshub.com/article.php?story=20051230014438503).

Rich Hill
Height: 6'5
Weight: 205 lbs
B/T: L/L
Birthplace: March 11, 1980
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts


There are few left-handers in the Cub system as good as Rich Hill. And none of them come close to this lefties' nasty breaking ball.

"I can throw it (curve) at any point during the count, because it gets my arm into the proper slot," says Hill, who led the Daytona Cubs in strikeouts in 2004, and lead the 2005 Cubs minors in strikeouts despite being on the MLB active roster for over a month.

Hill, a 25-year-old (26 in March) Boston native, was a Cubs fourth round pick in 2002. He's always been a strikeout pitcher with an MLB curve, even back to his college days at the University of Michigan. As a lefty firstbasemen playing for the University of Illinois, I had the displeasure of facing him several times in the two years (01 and 02) and it was complete horror. It came to a point where UI coach Itch Jones would sit all the lefty hitters in our lineup, which was a pretty big deal considering our top players and power hitters were all lefties.

For the second year in a row Rich Hill has gotten off to a fabulous start. In 2004, his first year of full-season professional ball, in four starts during the month of April, he won only one game but posted a 0.92 ERA and held hitters to a mere .159 mark through a combined 19 2/3innings. But after April came a small period of decline, which eventually lead to the decision to move Hill into the bullpen midway through July. He was eventually moved back into the starting rotation on August 12 after more than a month in the 'pen, but posted ERA's above six points during the final two months of the season.

In 2005, Hill started the season in Peoria (low-A) but after one start (8 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 12 K) was promoted to West Tennessee (AA) where he spent 10 starts with a 3.28 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .200 BAA, averaging 5.72 IP/GS, 6.55 3.28 BB/9, 14.05 K/9. That earned him another promotion to Iowa (AAA) where he started for a while before getting a promotion to the injury deplated MLB pitching staff on 6/15 against the Marlins.


Repertoire: Fastball, Curve, Cutter.

Fastball: 86-88 mph, regularly; maxed out at 92 mph this past season. All of Hill's control problems lie within the fastball and not the curve, which is backwards from how most pitchers arm.


Out-pitch: Without a doubt, Hill's outpitch is his nasty curveball. Hill offers a 12-6 curve that was regarded in 2004 by Baseball America as the best in the Florida State League and 2005 it was regarded as one of the best in the entire minor leagues. Far and away, Hill's curve is his bread and butter. Whenever he has control problems, he tends to revert back to the curveball to adjust his mechanics.


Strong Points: Resiliency

Aside from his outstanding breaking ball, Hill has a tendency to bounce back strong following a rough outing. In 2004, he allowed only seven earned runs in starts following a loss for a 2.97 ERA. He lost back-to-back games in the starting rotation only once (Apr. 12 & 17--his first two outings of the year). Hill also had one of the best strikeout per nine inning ratio's in all of the minors last season.


Keys To Success: Throw fastballs for strikes; Add another pitch

For Hill to be effective in the MLB, he must find a way to throw fastball for strikes. The pitch has good movement and zip on it, and if he can perfect it, Hill will be able to use the curveball as his strikeout pitch and not just his "every" pitch.

For Hill to be a MLB starter, he must develop another pitch to go along with his fastball, cutter and dominanting curve. Elsewise he's likely destined to become a lefty specialist. Personally having faced Hill and struck out nearly every at bat in college, lefties have absolutely no shot at hitting that curve of his. From a lefty's point of view in the batter's box, the ball starts out looking like it's going to go behind your head. Then with incredibly sharp break, the ball banks cutting through the strikezone at 69-72 mph. It's jaw dropping to watch it on television or in the stadium but actually be in the box, it's insane.


MLB Comparison: Barry Zito.

I know I'm reaching on this but the two left-hander's possess terrific breaking balls and share similar height and body build. When scouts discuss Hill's curve, the number one comparision is that of fellow lefty Barry Zito. Additionally, like Hill, Zito was known to occasionally struggle with control at certain intervals during his minor league career. Hill's fastball doesn't measure up to that of Zito's which is why Hill might end up as a lefty specialist for his MLB career.

Bob's Take: No one quite knows for certain what role Hill will reprise in 2006 or in his future. Hill says he thinks he'll be a starter, but the organization feels he may be better suited for middle relief as opposed to the rotation.

When Hill was asked about switching to the pen, he said "It's a different mentality. You just prepare yourself as the game goes along. When you're starting, you know when you're going to pitch obviously and you know when your day is over. You pretty much have a set routine, whereas coming out of the bullpen, it's just different."

In any regard, things are looking up for Hill. What a difference a year makes. He goes from an old fringe prospect to a top notch prospect that teams request in nearly ever trade the Cubs look into.

Next Scouting Report: Eric Patterson

Cubsfan97
01-09-2006, 09:47 AM
Thats quite impressive. Hopefully he will be on eof the greats on our team for years to come.