Toronto Blue Jays: Draft Targets Final Edition- Pitchers
Jaden Hill (Re-Visited) RHP LSU #35 On MLB Pipeline
I touched on LSU’s Jaden Hill during the first edition of my Blue Jays Draft Targets, but so much has changed surrounding the big righty since I wrote this piece back in late March that I thought It would be wise to revisit this tantalizing prospect.
Heading into the 2021 season, Hill was seen as a potential top 10 pick, ranking fifth on MLB Pipelines board. The Arkansas native has everything that ball clubs look for in an ace, starting with his excellent repertoire that features a mid 90’s fastball, a filthy changeup that grades out as one of the best in the class, and a plus slider that has shown swing and miss potential. The right hander also looks the part, standing at 6’4” and weighing in at 234 pounds.
Combining Hill’s three pitch mix with his plus size led most scouts to believe that there was no chance of him falling outside of the top 15 picks on draft day. The LSU product was destined to be the first Tiger selected in the opening round of the draft since 2017. All Hill had to do was go out and build off a solid COVID-19 shortened season, where he put up a fantastic 0.00 ERA in 11.2 innings pitched. Unfortunately, this did not materialize and the Arkansas native ended up having about as bad of a 2021 season as anyone could have imagined.
It began with the righty posting an ugly 6.67 ERA in seven starts for the Tigers, where teams had “no problem hitting his fastball”. Then, in possibly the biggest outing of Hill’s college career against Vanderbilt, he was forced to exit the game in the second inning due to an elbow injury and later found out that he would need Tommy John surgery, which would end his season. Because of Hill’s poor on-field performance and the injury concerns, the right-hander is now viewed as a second round prospect, who could sneak back into the first round because of his upside.
Hill is only a Junior, so there is an option for him to go back to LSU for his senior season to rebuild his value that has plummeted over the last three months. However, Tommy John can take over a year to recover from so there is no guarantee that the Arkansas native will be ready to pitch next season. Hill may decide that he’s better off taking his late first to early third round pay cheque and getting into an organization that will allow him to fully recover from his elbow injury, instead of returning to Baton Rouge and potentially rushing his rehab in order to get back on the field and rebuild his stock.
Hill definitely possesses the tools needed to thrive at the big league level. He’s drawn comparisons to the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Luis Castillo because of his elite change up, power fastball and plus third pitch. I personally believe that Hill’s poor on-field performance this season was due to the fact that he wasn’t 100% health wise, and wouldn’t put too much stock into those seven ugly starts.
I can almost guarantee that Hill will be available when the Jays are on the clock at pick 19. If Ross Atkins and company are comfortable with the injury, and feel that he will make a full recovery from it, then Jaden Hill could end up becoming one of the biggest steals of the 2021 draft and give the Jays a top 5 talent, towards the back half of round one.