Scouting Yanks Prospect #33: Mitch Hilligoss

The Yankees drafted shortstop Mitch Hilligoss in the 6th round of the 2006 MLB Draft out of Purdue University and moved him to third base in the middle of his debut season with the Staten Island Yankees. A NY-Penn League All-Star this past season, he was one of the better clutch hitters around. Here's a scouting report on Mitch Hilligoss.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Mitch Hilligoss
Position: Third Base
DOB: June 17, 1985
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 195
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

"Overall I think it was pretty up and down," Hilligoss said of his professional debut season with the Staten Island Yankees this past year. "I started off slow, got hot there towards the middle of the year, and then I obviously cooled off."

"You can't complain though in your first year going into the situation we were into and winning the [NY] Penn League. You look back and realize it wasn't that bad of a time when I was struggling but we got a ring and that's what matters."

Possessing the intangibles of a big leaguer already, Hilligoss began his career hitting just .257 in his first ten games before heating up with a .337 batting average in the month of July.

Reputedly an ideal contact hitter in his amateur days, he hit just .267 in his final 32 games and finished his first season with 47 strikeouts, a tally that came as a shock to Hilligoss himself.

"Probably the thing that frustrated me the most was my strikeouts because I don't think of myself as a strikeout hitter," he admitted. "I don't think I was struggling with any particular pitch. I think it was just maybe pressing a little bit more than normal."

If he was pressing, it sure didn't show in clutch situations however. The Yankees batted him primarily either second or third in the lineup this past season because of his ability to come up big in key situations where he hit .318 with runners in scoring position and .343 overall with runners on base.

"It doesn't bother me at all really," he said of batting either second or third in the lineup. "One, two, three, or four - it doesn't matter. You just have to do your job whenever you get an opportunity. Obviously in the three hole you're going to have more RBI's, two hole you're going to be asked to bunt more, and leading off you've got to get on. You've got to fulfill your role in that spot."

Even before donning the Staten Island uniform, the talk in the scouting world was Hilligoss, a shortstop in both high school and college, would have to make a position switch at the professional level.

"I've been told since probably I was a freshman or sophomore in high school that I was going to have to move from shortstop. I think it was put off longer than everybody expected. I knew that day was coming so I didn't think it was that big of a switch," he said of moving from shortstop to third base this past season.

"I'm more comfortable with it with the work we did at Instructs. Positioning and stuff like that, obviously you worry about. The coaching staff down there at Instructs did a great job of teaching me positioning, fielding, my mechanics, and preparing for different things to expect."

While he looked solid enough defensively at shortstop, he didn't have the prototypical range of most professional middle infielders and the Yankees moved him to third base. Now a corner infielder, the new question will be will he hit with enough power to remain at the hot corner.

"They always say you're going to play if you're going to hit," a confident Hilligoss told us. "I just keep my same approach. I've always said I think I have more power than probably what I've hit for now. Hopefully the power will come as I learn more about the wood bats. You've really just got to learn how to hit again with a wood bat."

"There's different mechanics, the spin of the ball and things like that, there's a bigger difference with the wood bat and you've got to learn to get every inch out of it. That's something we worked on down at Instructs and it's something I worked with Ty Hawkins [Staten Island hitting coach] during the year. We're just trying to develop that and become a good wooden bat hitter."

Hilligoss certainly looked like he had started to figure out the wooden bat during the Instructional League, routinely putting on power displays during batting practice and in the handful of games.

"I swung it pretty good down there at Instructs," said the sweet-swinging lefty. "I think I got kind of hot. Obviously a lot of swings down there really helps, a lot of repetition. I've got to turn it over in the game. A lot of that was just batting practice. I've got to do that in the game and prove I can do it there."

Looking the part of a big league hitter already, Hilligoss is more of a gap-to-gap hitter right now and while most inside the organization think his power will eventually come, it isn't a sure bet just yet.

"I would label myself a very aggressive hitter, a guy who will get himself out occasionally, probably a good average hitter and [with] power hopefully still to come," he said of his current game.

"Probably the way I play," he listed as his biggest strength, "I like to think of myself as being hard-nosed. I hate to lose. Skill-wise, I normally put the ball in play."

With his first professional season under his belt, a season in which he was not only named a NY-Penn League All-Star but named the NY-Penn League All-Star Game's 'Top Star', Hilligoss is totally focused on preparing himself for his first year of long-season league baseball in 2007.

"I think I need to solidify myself as a third baseman after changing positions," he said of his goals for next season. "Hitting-wise, just becoming more consistent. I was too up and down this past year and had too many strikeouts. I've got to cut down on the strikeouts obviously and do what I do, be a doubles hitter. That's power too, it doesn't necessarily have to go over the fence."

Possessing the grit and determination of a big league veteran, Hilligoss is a bit of an enigma as a prospect. He doesn't have the range of a Major League shortstop and it remains to be seen if he'll hit for the type of power needed to play a corner infield spot at the big league level.

But while he has at least a couple of minor league seasons to settle into a full-time position, just about everybody views him as a top-notch utility prospect someday, a projection that Hilligoss himself agrees with.

"I see myself first coming up as a utility guy," he said. "If the power doesn't develop maybe I end up as a second baseman. I see myself being that utility guy, maybe in the outfield and infield mix, and eventually settling in at either second or third base and hopefully batting in the two hole, that's where I could see myself and maybe somewhere sixth, seventh, or eighth."

"Whatever is fastest to improving myself and getting to the big leagues the quickest," he said if he'd be willing to move to another position like second base down the road. "It's definitely an option. But hopefully I can hit for enough power that I can stay at third base long enough."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2006

Staten Island

.292

267

8

2

36

40

12

24

47

.357

.342



Batting and Power. Hilligoss is a very dangerous gap hitter who has shown an ability to take pitches to the opposite field. He makes very good contact and despite the surprisingly high number of strikeouts this past season, he projects to be a high average hitter who can draw a good number of walks. His clutch hitting ability is a bit uncanny considering his lack of professional experience. The only question mark surrounding his offensive game is his power, but he has much more power than he displayed last season.

Base Running and Speed. Hilligoss is very athletic and surprisingly quick. He doesn't have game-changing speed but he can more than hold his own against the faster players in the organization and he has the potential to be a 20-30 stolen base threat each year.

Defense. He won't dazzle people with his defensive play at either shortstop or third base, but he has very soft hands and his aggressive play helps him complete difficult plays at times. He isn't a plus defensive player, but with his baseball aptitude, he should be more than solid at whichever position he plays.

Projection. Hilligoss has enough athleticism and versatility both offensively and defensively to safely project as a big league utility man down the road. He could play shortstop, second base, third base, and even some outfield. However, with intangibles off the charts and akin to David Wright of the Mets in that regard, Hilligoss has the chance to develop into a similar player if everything falls into place for him. Like Wright, Hilligoss is more of a high-average hitter who hits the gaps with regularity, comes through in the clutch, has some speed, and will hit the occasional home run. He'll need to prove it on the field to join such elite company, but style-wise, he's not that far off.

ETA. 2010. Even if Hilligoss eventually settles into a full-time position at the big league level someday, with his versatility, he should get his first opportunity as a utility player. He should be Charleston's starting third baseman next season and his offensive game is polished enough that a call-up to high-A Tampa is not out of the question. His Major League arrival could be sooner, but it seems more than likely he'll need three full seasons of minor league baseball before he's ready.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nVital Statistics:
\r\nName: Mitch Hilligoss
\r\nPosition: Third Base
\r\nDOB: June 17, 1985
\r\nHeight: 6'1\"
\r\nWeight: 195
\r\nBats: Left
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\n
\r\n\"Overall I think it was pretty up and down,\" Hilligoss said of his professional debut season with the Staten Island Yankees this past year. \"I started off slow, got hot there towards the middle of the year, and then I obviously cooled off.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"You can't complain though in your first year going into the situation we were into and winning the [NY] Penn League. You look back and realize it wasn't that bad of a time when I was struggling but we got a ring and that's what matters.\"
\r\n
\r\nPossessing the intangibles of a big leaguer already, Hilligoss began his career hitting just .257 in his first ten games before heating up with a .337 batting average in the month of July.
\r\n
\r\nReputedly an ideal contact hitter in his amateur days, he hit just .267 in his final 32 games and finished his first season with 47 strikeouts, a tally that came as a shock to Hilligoss himself.
\r\n
\r\n\"Probably the thing that frustrated me the most was my strikeouts because I don't think of myself as a strikeout hitter,\" he admitted. \"I don't think I was struggling with any particular pitch. I think it was just maybe pressing a little bit more than normal.\"
\r\n
\r\nIf he was pressing, it sure didn't show in clutch situations however. The Yankees batted him primarily either second or third in the lineup this past season because of his ability to come up big in key situations where he hit .318 with runners in scoring position and .343 overall with runners on base.
\r\n
\r\n\"It doesn't bother me at all really,\" he said of batting either second or third in the lineup. \"One, two, three, or four - it doesn't matter. You just have to do your job whenever you get an opportunity. Obviously in the three hole you're going to have more RBI's, two hole you're going to be asked to bunt more, and leading off you've got to get on. You've got to fulfill your role in that spot.\"
\r\n
\r\nEven before donning the Staten Island uniform, the talk in the scouting world was Hilligoss, a shortstop in both high school and college, would have to make a position switch at the professional level.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've been told since probably I was a freshman or sophomore in high school that I was going to have to move from shortstop. I think it was put off longer than everybody expected. I knew that day was coming so I didn't think it was that big of a switch,\" he said of moving from shortstop to third base this past season.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm more comfortable with it with the work we did at Instructs. Positioning and stuff like that, obviously you worry about. The coaching staff down there at Instructs did a great job of teaching me positioning, fielding, my mechanics, and preparing for different things to expect.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile he looked solid enough defensively at shortstop, he didn't have the prototypical range of most professional middle infielders and the Yankees moved him to third base. Now a corner infielder, the new question will be will he hit with enough power to remain at the hot corner.
\r\n
\r\n\"They always say you're going to play if you're going to hit,\" a confident Hilligoss told us. \"I just keep my same approach. I've always said I think I have more power than probably what I've hit for now. Hopefully the power will come as I learn more about the wood bats. You've really just got to learn how to hit again with a wood bat.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"There's different mechanics, the spin of the ball and things like that, there's a bigger difference with the wood bat and you've got to learn to get every inch out of it. That's something we worked on down at Instructs and it's something I worked with Ty Hawkins [Staten Island hitting coach] during the year. We're just trying to develop that and become a good wooden bat hitter.\"
\r\n
\r\nHilligoss certainly looked like he had started to figure out the wooden bat during the Instructional League, routinely putting on power displays during batting practice and in the handful of games.
\r\n
\r\n\"I swung it pretty good down there at Instructs,\" said the sweet-swinging lefty. \"I think I got kind of hot. Obviously a lot of swings down there really helps, a lot of repetition. I've got to turn it over in the game. A lot of that was just batting practice. I've got to do that in the game and prove I can do it there.\"
\r\n
\r\nLooking the part of a big league hitter already, Hilligoss is more of a gap-to-gap hitter right now and while most inside the organization think his power will eventually come, it isn't a sure bet just yet.
\r\n
\r\n\"I would label myself a very aggressive hitter, a guy who will get himself out occasionally, probably a good average hitter and [with] power hopefully still to come,\" he said of his current game.
\r\n
\r\n\"Probably the way I play,\" he listed as his biggest strength, \"I like to think of myself as being hard-nosed. I hate to lose. Skill-wise, I normally put the ball in play.\"
\r\n
\r\nWith his first professional season under his belt, a season in which he was not only named a NY-Penn League All-Star but named the NY-Penn League All-Star Game's 'Top Star', Hilligoss is totally focused on preparing himself for his first year of long-season league baseball in 2007.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think I need to solidify myself as a third baseman after changing positions,\" he said of his goals for next season. \"Hitting-wise, just becoming more consistent. I was too up and down this past year and had too many strikeouts. I've got to cut down on the strikeouts obviously and do what I do, be a doubles hitter. That's power too, it doesn't necessarily have to go over the fence.\"
\r\n
\r\nPossessing the grit and determination of a big league veteran, Hilligoss is a bit of an enigma as a prospect. He doesn't have the range of a Major League shortstop and it remains to be seen if he'll hit for the type of power needed to play a corner infield spot at the big league level.
\r\n
\r\nBut while he has at least a couple of minor league seasons to settle into a full-time position, just about everybody views him as a top-notch utility prospect someday, a projection that Hilligoss himself agrees with.
\r\n
\r\n\"I see myself first coming up as a utility guy,\" he said. \"If the power doesn't develop maybe I end up as a second baseman. I see myself being that utility guy, maybe in the outfield and infield mix, and eventually settling in at either second or third base and hopefully batting in the two hole, that's where I could see myself and maybe somewhere sixth, seventh, or eighth.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Whatever is fastest to improving myself and getting to the big leagues the quickest,\" he said if he'd be willing to move to another position like second base down the road. \"It's definitely an option. But hopefully I can hit for enough power that I can stay at third base long enough.\"
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

\r\n Year

\r\n

\r\n Team

\r\n

\r\n AVG

\r\n

\r\n AB

\r\n

\r\n 2B

\r\n

\r\n HR

\r\n

\r\n RBI

\r\n

\r\n R

\r\n

\r\n SB

\r\n

\r\n BB

\r\n

\r\n SO

\r\n

\r\n OBP

\r\n

\r\n SLG

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Staten Island

\r\n

\r\n .292

\r\n

\r\n 267

\r\n

\r\n 8

\r\n

\r\n 2

\r\n

\r\n 36

\r\n

\r\n 40

\r\n

\r\n 12

\r\n

\r\n 24

\r\n

\r\n 47

\r\n

\r\n .357

\r\n

\r\n .342

\r\n
\r\n
\r\nBatting and Power. Hilligoss is a very dangerous gap hitter who has shown an ability to take pitches to the opposite field. He makes very good contact and despite the surprisingly high number of strikeouts this past season, he projects to be a high average hitter who can draw a good number of walks. His clutch hitting ability is a bit uncanny considering his lack of professional experience. The only question mark surrounding his offensive game is his power, but he has much more power than he displayed last season.
\r\n
\r\nBase Running and Speed. Hilligoss is very athletic and surprisingly quick. He doesn't have game-changing speed but he can more than hold his own against the faster players in the organization and he has the potential to be a 20-30 stolen base threat each year.
\r\n
\r\nDefense. He won't dazzle people with his defensive play at either shortstop or third base, but he has very soft hands and his aggressive play helps him complete difficult plays at times. He isn't a plus defensive player, but with his baseball aptitude, he should be more than solid at whichever position he plays.
\r\n
\r\nProjection. Hilligoss has enough athleticism and versatility both offensively and defensively to safely project as a big league utility man down the road. He could play shortstop, second base, third base, and even some outfield. However, with intangibles off the charts and akin to David Wright of the Mets in that regard, Hilligoss has the chance to develop into a similar player if everything falls into place for him. Like Wright, Hilligoss is more of a high-average hitter who hits the gaps with regularity, comes through in the clutch, has some speed, and will hit the occasional home run. He'll need to prove it on the field to join such elite company, but style-wise, he's not that far off.
\r\n
\r\nETA. 2010. Even if Hilligoss eventually settles into a full-time position at the big league level someday, with his versatility, he should get his first opportunity as a utility player. He should be Charleston's starting third baseman next season and his offensive game is polished enough that a call-up to high-A Tampa is not out of the question. His Major League arrival could be sooner, but it seems more than likely he'll need three full seasons of minor league baseball before he's ready.
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