As a draft-eligible sophomore in 2016, Texas A&M right-handed pitcher Brigham Hill had a chance to start his professional career when the Oakland Athletics selected him in the 20th round of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
However, Hill passed on the opportunity and returned to College Station, Texas for his junior season in 2017.
“With just the way the season ended last year, I felt like I had something to prove,” said Hill, who went 9-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 2016. “And the draft didn’t work out like I thought it would.”
Just like last year, Hill is drawing attention from professional teams this spring. Baseball America ranks Hill as the 75th-best college prospect in June’s MLB Draft.
“Fortunately, I had the opportunity to go through (the draft process) last year,” Hill said. “The draft will take care of itself, and I’m just focused on competing.”
A 6-foot, 185-pound righty, Hill has a three-pitch mix, featuring a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup. He also has solid command, striking out 99 batters with just 28 walks in 97 innings in 2016.
A talented, undersized pitcher, Hill hopes to improve his defense this spring.
“As easy as it might sound, I want to field my position better,” Hill said. “It’s the little things I want to get better at because it makes a difference.”
Despite Hill’s success as a starter, pro scouts still question if he’s capable of staying in that role in pro baseball due to his size and durability. He underwent Tommy John surgery in high school.
Hill hears the criticism and hopes to prove doubters wrong this spring.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Hill said. “A lot of people say I don’t have the size to be a starting pitcher and it (motivates) me to do better. I just go out there with confidence.”
As Texas A&M’s No. 1 starter, Hill is 5-2 with a 2.60 ERA, 52 strikeouts and 13 walks in 45 innings this season.
In seven starts this spring, Hill had a three-game stretch that he allowed 13 runs, compared to zero runs in the other four starts. Hill believes his fastball command is the reason for the difference in results.
“My command hasn’t been where it needs to be and then it doesn’t set up any of my other pitches,” Hill said. “I’ve been falling behind in the count.”
Even with June’s draft approaching, Hill is not worried about his personal performance. Instead, he’s just trying to lead Texas A&M (19-10) deep into the postseason.
“I just want to be a team leader,” Hill said. “We just need to play relax and have fun. We had a meeting the other day, and I told the team that we can’t worry about the results. That will take care of itself. We just need to play easy and relaxed.”
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