Confession, I have a fondness for pitchers who use a changeup as their top secondary pitch. The changeup not only saves pitchers from the strain a slider and curve can put on their elbows, but it also opens up so many possibilities. A well thrown changeup keeps hitters off balance and gives pitchers an opportunity to spot a pitch other than their fastball.
Jaden Hill has the potential to throw that kind of changeup (in the video around :20 someone in the crowd gives an audible “oooo” for his changeup). He also has the potential to pair it with a mid-90s fastball with life and an average or better curveball.
Right now, Hill sits in the low-90s with his fastball, but with a projectable frame at 6’4”, 215 pounds and athleticism, he seems like a good candidate to gain some velocity as he continues to gain strength and iron out his mechanics.
From the little public video available of Hill, it looks like he has the potential for solid command if he gets more consistent with his mechanics and refrains from overthrowing his fastball. At present, he struggles to stay on top of his curveball consistently, but when he gets it right, it’s got sharp, late break that fools hitters.
Hill gets less buzz than some other top high school pitching prospects in part because he comes from Ashdown, Arkansas, which isn’t a hot bed of prep baseball activity. He’s a two-sport athlete with football offers from Missouri, Arkansas State, and Louisiana-Monroe, according to Whole Hog Sports. He has committed to LSU as a pitcher.
With the chance to focus exclusively on baseball, and exclusively on pitching, Hill may be able to improve the bite on his curveball and get more consistent with his mechanics, which should solidify his command and perhaps increase his velocity. He already has good feel for his changeup, but if it ticks up a bit, it could turn into a true out pitch.
While high school pitchers are increasingly advanced as prospects, Hill represents a player with room to grow. Recently, baseball minds have determined that right handed prep pitchers are often over valued in the first round because there isn’t much distinction between the guys taken in the first round and the guys taken in the 3-5 rounds. Hill is a guy who could get taken in the 3-5 rounds, though there isn’t much difference between him and some of the other prep arms that will go in the first.
Video credit: 2080 Baseball