Derek Hill has played the role of big-league prospect for more than a year.
Now the recent Elk Grove High School graduate is ready to look the part of first-round material, right down to the color-coordinated suit he will wear for a nationally broadcast announcement that will shape his life. And Hill, considered the best defensive center fielder available in the major league draft, will have a curious baseball community in Sacramento watching anxiously.
A 6-foot-2, 185-pounder with speed and range with a quick, right-handed stroke at the plate, Hill on Thursday will be in Secaucus, N.J., site of the first-year player draft. He is projected to be the region’s highest area selection – high school or college – and likely the area’s first first-round high school pick since Tony Torcato of Woodland went to the Giants 19th overall in 1998.
“It’s very humbling to be in New York for this, to be recognized like this,” Hill said. “I’m ready.”
And that suit?
“Oh, it’s nice,” the soft-spoken Hill said. “It’s gray with a blue undershirt and a yellow tie. I’ll be looking fresh.”
Fresh is one way to describe Hill’s game and outlook. Hill attracted scores of scouts at games, dazzling them with highlight plays in the outfield, slapping hits to all fields and stealing bases. He worked out for a number of big-league executives with at-home visits, including Giants general manager Brian Sabean.
Hill took it all in stride, in part because his father, Orsino Hill, knows this game. A first-round pick in 1982 out of Nebraska, Hill logged 12 minor-league seasons as an outfielder, eight in Triple A. He has worked as a scout in recent years with the Dodgers.
“My dad tells me to be humble and to appreciate this,” Hill said. “I’ve been around the game my entire life, so I know how to act, what to say. It was a little more nerve-wracking at first for games but I just did the best I could, but it’s been an absolute blast. We’re almost there. Can’t wait.”
Rival pitchers from Placer County also are counting down the hours. Mitch Hart of Granite Bay and Logan Webb of Rocklin saw their stock soar this spring because of their ability to throw hard. Both worked the radar gun regularly in the 90s. Hart was recently flown to Texas to work out for Rangers’ staff. He later drove to San Francisco to visit with the Giants. On Monday, he was in Chicago to work out in front of Cubs management.
The 6-2 Hart may have leverage on his side as he has a scholarship to USC.
“No anxiety, just excitement,” Hart said. “Either way, I’m going to be happy. Getting enough money (from a signing bonus) out of high school is just the icing on the cake for me. If it doesn’t work out, then I’ll see (the draft) in three years out of USC.”
Webb was lightly regarded a year ago but has emerged as a prospect at 6-2. He said his arm was fresh this spring after playing football last fall. Webb has options. He can sign with a professional team, go to a four-year program as Sacramento State has offered, or go to a community college and get drafted after a year.
“Very excited,” Webb said. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds for some of us coming out of the area. Everyone has a bright future if we keep our minds right and stay humble.
“We need to live in the moment and take all of it in, because we’ll never forget these times.”
Former Bee Player of the Year J.D. Davis of Elk Grove is one of the country’s top two-way players for Cal State Fullerton. He’ll be drafted for his power at the plate, though he’s also a good closer. He had a grand slam in last Friday’s 5-1 win over Nebraska in an NCCA Regional and a save in Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Cornhuskers.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.