Darius Hill, outfield
Born Dallas, Texas, August 19, 1997.
Drafted by the Cubs in the 20th round in 2019 from West Virginia
Myrtle Beach’s first series of the 2021 season was in Charleston. The Charleston RiverDogs would wind up with the best record in the league, and it wasn’t close. They were trotting out SEC and ACC veterans against players who might well have been pegged for Short-Season Ball, if the classification still existed. Nonetheless, Darius Hill hit well that first series in Low-A, and earned a promotion after a bit over a week. In seven games, Hill had 12 hits in 32 at-bats, with three doubles. Not only was he promoted, he skipped over High-A South Bend, entirely.
And proceeded to hit in Double-A, as well.
Presumably, you’ve played Chutes and Ladders. In the board game, each player grabs a peg, and moves it around the 100 space board. On some spaces, the player moves ahead on the board. In others, a demotion happens. In Chutes and Ladders, there isn’t really a strategy. (I have noted four board games below, from no strategy, to low strategy, to higher strategy, to high strategy.)
I’ll 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. (League average was .714.) When paired with speed and all three spots defense, you’ll take that, especially for a 20th rounder.
West Virginia, whether you know it or not, was in the Big 12 during all of Hill’s time there. The Big 12 is a Power Four baseball conference. His numbers, whatever they were, were earned. His career OPS there was .860, as a three-position outfielder, with some speed. People like to think they can plan out which players will develop how effectively in which college or professional seasons. That is largely bunk. We have the applicable and accurate information. Until it changes.
As much as people might think the draft would become interesting with trades, the reason NFL draft trades are interesting is the combination of familiarity and immediacy. If you’re pot-committed to an NFL team, and know enough about college football to be dangerous, trading a second round choice in 2023 and a third in 2024 to move up six spots might enrage or appease you. With college, few people prioritize college baseball games. If there’s a work stoppage continuing through this offseason, college might be all there is for longer than expected.
To follow a college squad, you don’t need to watch every game. Learn the basics. Who’s the head coach? Who’s the pitching coach? Who was their last guy drafted? Is their radio baseball network educational, or run by clueless locals? Quality comes from all over. Since people are likely to stick around longer if their team is good, choosing a quality squad in a quality league might help.
In Chutes and Ladders, if you land on square 87, you slip to 24. If you happen upon 28, you vault to 84. Minor league player development is rarely that immediate, though serious injuries can be calamitous. Minding players, at any level, as they step it up against better competition is a blast. You’re welcomed to consider a side for February if the other calamity hits.
Hill might be in Double-A or Triple-A in April. How he does there will be determined when there’s information to sort.
No strategy: Candyland
Minimal strategy: Parcheesi
Reasonable strategy: Stratego
Definite strategy: Connect Four