Hilliard tells a similar tale to Rodgers, minus the top draft pick status. He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2015 draft, the same year as Rodgers. Hilliard was also the only outfielder to be a non-roster invitee.
After a year in Asheville in 2016 in which he hit .267 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI across 127 games, Hilliard was promoted to Lancaster for the 2017 season. Last year, Hilliard drove in 92 and launched 21 home runs, fairly similar numbers to those from a year earlier.
The major difference came in his batting average and his approach at the plate. Hilliard’s batting average jumped more than 30 points to .300 and overall he looked more comfortable and confident at the plate.
Defensively, Hilliard has the speed to be a center fielder despite his 6-foot-5 stature, but often fits best in right field, where he saw the majority of his time last year.
A+ pitching is definitely a world different from AA pitching and beyond. While Hilliard looked solid last season against A+ pitching, fans should be interested to see if he can translate last year’s success into success in Spring Training and at the Double-A level this year.