Rockies’ Jaden Hill, club’s top right-handed pitching prospect, to make minor-league debut after recovery from Tommy John
Will the Rockies’ gamble on an injured, power right-hander in last year’s draft pay off? The team is about to start finding out.
Jaden Hill, chosen No. 44 overall last year, is making his minor-league debut Tuesday night at Salt River Fields for the Arizona Complex League Rockies. Once an obvious first-round pick, Hill underwent Tommy John surgery in 2021, ending his college career at LSU and causing him to fall to Colorado in the second round.
The 6-foot-4 Hill has been building up recently with simulated at-bats and bullpen sessions, and the Rockies believe he’s healthy and ready for his first professional game. His fastball has been clocked as high as 99 mph, but it’s Hill’s makeup as a pitcher that has the club optimistic he’s now on track to fulfill projections as a starter in the middle of the Rockies’ rotation.
“Velocity is exciting and all that, but the changeup, the pitchability, the command of the fastball within the zone is all there, too,” Rockies head amateur scout Marc Gustafson said. “It’s all of the stuff that he had going prior to his injury when you could’ve made an argument that he would’ve been a top-five pick in last year’s draft.”
Rockies farm director Chris Forbes said Hill has “an unbelievable changeup” to pair with his heater, while his breaking ball is a work in progress. Hill is the Rockies’ top right-handed pitching prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and its No. 11 overall prospect. The only Colorado pitcher ranked higher than Hill is left-hander Ryan Rolison, who had his 2022 cut short due to shoulder surgery.
“It’s probably the best changeup we have in the organization right now,” Forbes said. “And with (his velocity) being back, it’s just a matter of getting the mound time in there, getting a feel for the breaking ball and getting some semblance of command for that pitch.”
The Rockies will “piggyback” Hill this season, meaning his starts will be short at the outset and be extended to no more than four or five innings later this season.
“He’s made good progress, and we’re looking forward to getting him out there more regularly,” general manager Bill Schmidt said. “We’ll try to get as many innings out of him as we can this summer, while still being careful with him.”