How Logan Hill Bounced Back From Demotion With Sheer Tenacity

CHARLESTON, WV – Last year, Logan Hill exploded onto the scene when he hit .297/.402/.479 with the West Virginia Black Bears. In July 2015, he was crowned Player of the Month in the NYPL, and he led the team’s charge into the postseason after Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer moved up to the West Virginia Power.

There was a catch, though. The 25th round draft pick put up those numbers at 22 years old, nearly a year older than the league average. Hill’s strength and athleticism were apparent, but the question remained: could he continue this performance at a higher level?

Hill got his shot when he started this year with the Bradenton Marauders, skipping over the Low-A West Virginia Power. In the Florida State League, Hill was mere months older than his competition, some of whom had at least one full season of professional ball under their belt.

Hill struggled. His swing, much praised in his short season with the Black Bears, dragged through the zone, resulting in weak grounders and pop-ups to the opposite field. He averaged more than one strikeout per game and only mustered four extra base hits before the Pirates decided to send him down to the Power.

Hill's spray chart with Bradenton, compiled by mlbfarm.com
Hill’s spray chart with Bradenton, compiled by mlbfarm.com

“There were some things in my swing that we’re working on cleaning up,” said Hill. “That was a part of the reason they sent me down here.”

Although the change in scenery improved Hill’s outlook (“I was just honestly happy to be here around these guys,” he said), it did little to improve his approach at the plate.

In his first 32 games with the Power, Hill struck out 47 times. He often went down swinging wildly at pitches well out of the strike zone. His batting average plummeted below .200 for the first time in his professional career as a result of being held hitless in over half of his appearances with the new club.

Hill thinks these struggles could have been the result of his desire to perform well after playing at the higher level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to put up gaudy numbers, and I really wasn’t being myself,” he said.

Power hitting coach Ryan Long blames the overly aggressive plate approach for Hill’s high strikeout totals.

“Sometimes these guys, they start facing pitching they haven’t seen before at different levels, and they have a tendency to start guessing a little bit,” he explained. “In other words, they look for certain pitches, and they don’t get them.”

When Hill didn’t get the pitch he wanted, he would take off-balance swings on pitches out of the strike zone.

Hill's spray chart with the West Virginia Power through June, compiled by mlbfarm.com
Hill’s spray chart with the West Virginia Power through June, compiled by mlbfarm.com

When Hill did make contact, as shown above, he used the whole field, a positive sign, but he rarely reached base.

“I’ve been really unlucky when I got my chances,” Hill said, “But you know, that’s something that’s out of your control so you’ve got to keep plugging through it.”

So that’s what he did. He worked with Long to simplify his swing, and even on the worst days, he tried to mine one bit of success from each game.

Hill reflected, “There’s always something every game, at least one at-bat or a couple swings where I felt what I needed to feel.”

And by the end of June, Hill started to drive the ball. His already advanced bat speed, the first thing Long noticed about him, improved. He put his full 6′ 3″ 230 pound frame into the swing, and the ball took off like a rocket.

“If he barrels them up, they’re going to go,” said Long.

In the month of July, Hill hit .315/.384/.607. His power is starting to come through with six doubles, four triples, and four homers in July alone. He is beginning to use his speed, as well, turning doubles into triples and stealing five bases in 27 games.

In this final spray chart, you can see that Hill has perfected his timing. Nearly all of his hard contact has gone straight up the middle in the month of July. That means, he’s choosing good pitches, waiting for them, and connecting.

Hill's contact in July, compiled by mlbfarm.com
Hill’s contact in July, compiled by mlbfarm.com

Perhaps the most encouraging sign of Hill’s renaissance is his strikeout total. In the month of July, Hill only struck out 20 times, a vast improvement over earlier months. Even with the comparatively high strikeout total, Ryan Long is happy with Hill’s improvements.

“At the end of the day, he’s going to strike out some. That’s okay,” Long said. “The way he’s getting out is what we’re looking at. If he’s getting there by being aggressive and swinging at pitches he wants to, and he’s just not hitting them right now, we’re good.”

It still remains to be seen whether Hill can continue this trend and succeed at the higher levels. His struggles this year dropped him off of our midseason top 50 prospects list. He had been listed at 36th, right behind Casey Hughston who has had similar trials this year and experienced an identical fall from the list. He still hasn’t proven himself above Low-A, and he turned 23 in May. The key for his professional future may be the transition between West Virginia and a second shot at Bradenton, but if he continues to use that simplified swing, his bat could carry him to the upper minor league levels.

For now, Hill is happy right where he is.

“Right now we’re at the stage where I feel like I’m beginning to snowball,” Hill said. “Things are really starting to go in the right direction.”

  • …..And he is a Troy U. alum to boot, as were prior Pirates minor leaguers Jared Keel, Danny Collins and Mike Felix. Former (briefly) Pirate and current National Clint Robinson was also from Troy.

  • Well done, Abigail!

  • One of the unfortunate things about the professional baseball is that a young ballplayer usually has little room for error. We love the adversity stories, and we love the guys who miraculously become big leaguers after playing in the beer leagues, but realistically if this kid had another bad year, that’s probably it for him. Most professionals can afford a couple extra years of immaturity in their early 20s.

    Nice to see Hill get it together. Hopefully he can keep it up.

  • Be nice to get some power into our major/minor lineups.

  • Big bodied player. Lets hope he can hit when he moves up.

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