Ken Carr/IBI

2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #10 Juan Hillman

The 2017 countdown moves into the top with a good, young left-handed arm who brings a good mix of size, strength, stuff and pitching know-how for his age and has a chance to really blossom into a star this season...

10. Juan Hillman – Left-handed Pitcher

Born: 05/15/1997 – Height: 6’2” – Weight: 185 – Bats: Left – Throws: Left

Facts & Info: Hillman was selected by the Indians in the 2nd round of the 2015 Draft out of Olympia High School (FL). He had a commitment to attend and play baseball for the University of Central Florida but the Indians pulled him away by signing him to a $825,000 signing bonus. He was a 2015 Perfect Game USA first team Preseason All-American selection and was named to the Florida All-Region First Team. Former Major League pitcher Tom Gordon became his legal guardian when he was a sophomore in high school. Last season he finished 2nd in the NY-Penn League in games started (15). 

Stuff: Hillman is a well-built left-handed pitcher who has the stuff and feel for pitching to be one of the Indians next big pitching prospects. There is still a lot of projection to his body as he has a lean, athletic frame that should continue to get stronger as he matures and continues his strength and conditioning program. His stuff also has a lot of projection to it too as he is an advanced, polished arm with a nice three pitch mix that all has a chance to be above average. He has a solid average fastball that sits comfortably at 89-93 MPH and will touch 94-95 MPH at times, and really gets some good, late life through the zone with it. The Indians believe there is a chance for more velocity as he continues to fill out his frame and get stronger where he could see his average and top end velocity see a 1-2 MPH uptick. He does a good job of commanding and locating his fastball to both sides of the plate and is able to spot it to all four quadrants and just does a nice job of moving it up, down, in and out. He is not afraid to pitch inside with it to lefties or righties, and gets some swing and miss on it because of the good late running action and how he angles it well on hitters. His plus changeup is considered the best pitch in his arsenal as he shows a very good feel for it and commands it very well. He really repeats his arm speed and arm slot well to create some deception to it and make it look like a fastball coming out of his hand and it shows some very good late tumbling action. His curveball is another good offering for him that only grades out as average now because he is a little inconsistent with it, but has a chance to be plus because of his good feel for spin and the good 12/6 shape and depth it flashes.

Delivery & Intangibles: Hillman has a loose arm and a polished delivery with some very good, clean mechanics where he does a good job of staying balanced and compact throughout his delivery and has a good tempo and rhythm to it. He hides the ball well and creates some deception with his quick arm action. He throws from a high three-quarter arm slot and really gets some good downhill angle to all of his pitches. He is a strike thrower who commands all of his stuff very well for his age, and his pitchability is off the charts just with his advanced ability at his age of reading swings, setting up hitters, mixing his pitches and understanding of how hitters are trying to attack him. He has a strong work ethic and is a good makeup player.

Focus: Last season was Hillman’s first real taste of a full season where he started throwing in February and it was nonstop all the way through early September. He was learning a five day routine and his body had to adjust in many different ways to the grind of a seven to eight month season. He hit a lull velocity-wise late in the season because of general fatigue, and his numbers were impacted as a result. While he did a nice job overall of coming in and doing his work and having a strong, healthy season and put up some solid numbers, going forward it will be about learning to balance his body and his pitches so that he can stay strong the entire season and not have fatigue set in. The Indians really emphasized his strength and conditioning program this offseason so that he comes into this season even stronger and can handle the higher workload he will have this year. With his athleticism and frame he has the potential to add bulk and strength, which will not only help him stay stronger over the course of a season but could improve his chances for durability and also bump his velocity up a little. His struggles over his last nine starts of the season were also a byproduct of him leaving too many pitches up in the zone. Without the stuff to overpower hitters he has to consistently locate down in the zone, something he lost a feel for during the season, and is something that will be a main development point for him going forward. In addition to that the Indians want him to develop an even better feel for pitching on the mound to be even better at reading the swings of hitters better to see when they are aggressive and when they are not so that he sequences his pitches and locations to them better. His curveball is a main focal point in his arsenal as the Indians would like to see him add a little more power and depth to it. They want him to be more intent with it which they believe will allow him to be more consistent with his arm speed and release point which in turn will create more spin and improve the shape of it.

Future: Hillman had a solid showing last season in his first full season in the organization. He opened the season in extended spring training to continue to build his routines, refine his mechanics and improve his stuff and then went to Short-A Mahoning Valley when their season started and had a good year. He was young for the league as the NY-Penn League is often filled with a lot of recently drafted college players who are older, but he more than held his own. In fact, through his first six starts he was sensational going 2-0 with a 0.89 ERA (30.1 IP, 21 H, 4 R (3 ER), 0 HR, 8 BB, 26 K) before hitting a wall and over his final nine starts went 1-4 with a 7.71 ERA (32.2 IP, 45 H, 32 R (28 ER), 5 HR, 16 BB, 21 K). It was a complete reversal as he went from 3rd in the league in ERA over his first six starts to worst in the league in ERA over his last nine starts. Even still, it was a very productive and encouraging year for him as he has now made the transition to pro ball with getting into the routine of preparing for games, handling the travel, facing the competition and the overall lifestyle in general. Now, he needs to get the mental and physical part of the game down as this season he will be pitching his first full season and should throw about 120 or so innings. He is advanced for his age so could move quickly, and projects as a solid middle of the rotation starter with the upside to be more. He should open the season at Low-A Lake County and spend a majority of the season there, though with a strong showing could see some time at High-A Lynchburg late in the year.

Ranking History: #11 (2016)

Juan Hillman

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