As an amateur, it took a while for Hilliard to get noticed. He began his college career in junior college, first at Navarro College in Texas and then Crowder College in Missouri. He was drafted late by the Twins after that season, but chose to head on to Wichita State for his junior year. Back then, Hilliard was a two-way player, perhaps known more as a pitcher. But his offensive game took a step forward in 2015, leading the Rockies to draft him as an outfielder in the 15th round. He was added to the 40-man roster following the 2018 season and a strong Arizona Fall League showing, then had a huge '19 season in Triple-A which led to his first call up to the big leagues.
The 6-foot-5 Hilliard has always shown off some tools in fits and bursts, but he put them together more consistently in a year that saw him hit 35 homers and steal 22 bases in Triple-A -- the second 20-20 campaign of his career. Considering he didn’t really start hitting until he got to Crowder College, it’s understandable that his offensive game has been a work in progress. There’s no doubt the in-game power is real and there is always going to be swing-and-miss to his game, but the more reps he gets, the better his strikeout rate will be, and he did cut down on the K’s in 2019 while drawing more walks as he’s learned to recognize pitches better.
His ability to run as well as he does, with his plus arm and strong outfield defense, given his size, continues to remind people in the organization of Larry Walker. The Rockies feel what Hilliard did in the big leagues in 2019 is a sign of production to come.
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
Hilliard was known more as a pitcher early in his amateur days, even getting drafted as a left-hander by the Twins when he was in junior college in 2014. His bat came alive the following year after he transferred to Wichita State and his upside as a hitter got the Rockies to take a chance on him with a 15th-round selection. He's shown glimpses of putting his tools into production, playing 2018 in Double-A, then really standing out with a strong Arizona Fall League performance to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.
On any given day, Hilliard will show all five tools. Given that he didn't really start focusing on his offensive game until college, he's still learning to hit. He made some adjustments to his swing at the end of his 2018 season, adding a small leg kick to replace a toe tap with strong results, especially in the AFL. It allowed him to keep his weight back, wait on breaking balls more and lay off of ones out of the strike zone, something that has previously plagued him. It should help him tap into his easily plus raw power more consistently. He runs very well for his size and while he has seen time in all three outfield spots, he fits the profile of an athletic power-hitting right fielder with a plus arm.
Because of his size, athleticism and tools, Hilliard sometimes gets Larry Walker comps, minus the plus hit tool. That's an unfair standard obviously, but there is ceiling for Hilliard to still grow into.
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
The Twins drafted Hilliard as a left-handed pitcher in the 31st round in 2014 out of Crowder (Mo.) JC, where he was a two-way player, but he turned them down to transfer to Wichita State. He had more success as a hitter with the Shockers and signed for $100,000 when the Rockies popped him in the 15th round as an outfielder in 2015. He led the low Class A South Atlantic League with 83 RBIs during his first full pro season and ranked second in the high Class A California League with 92 last year while also hitting 21 homers and stealing 37 bases.
He's a tooled-up, left-handed-hitting right fielder, prompting one club official to compare him to Larry Walker, though Hilliard isn't nearly as polished at the plate as the greatest hitter in franchise history. His extra-large frame gives him an extra-long swing that resulted in 359 strikeouts in his first 320 pro games. He has 20-20 potential, with plus raw power that he began to tap into more last year when he began hitting more fly balls and the speed to match.
Though he runs well enough to at least fill in as a center fielder, Hilliard fits better in right. His arm delivered 88-92 mph fastballs in college and gives him a third plus tool.
A two-way player at Crowder (Mo.) JC, Hilliard went to the Twins in the 31st round of the 2014 Draft as a left-handed pitcher but turned them down to transfer to Wichita State. After performing much better at the plate than on the mound with the Shockers, he signed for $100,000 when the Rockies selected him in the 15th round as an outfielder in 2015. He led the low Class A South Atlantic League with 83 RBIs during his first full pro season while showing better power and speed than he did as an amateur.
Hilliard's left-handed raw power, speed and arm strength all grade as plus tools. His 6-foot-5 frame creates impressive leverage that he could utilize better by adding more loft to his swing. His extra-large frame comes with a naturally long swing, and he needs a more consistent approach after striking out in 30 percent of his plate appearances during his first two pro seasons.
Hilliard is surprisingly fast for a big man and has 20-20 potential. He runs well enough to cover ground in center field but fits better on the corners. His arm, which provided 88-92 mph fastballs in college, works anywhere in the outfield.
Hilliard saw limited action at Navarro (Texas) JC as a freshman in 2013 before transferring to Crowder (Mo.) JC, where he was a two-way player who drew comparisons to Tony Cingrani on the mound. The Twins selected Hilliard as a left-handed pitcher in the 31st round of the 2014 Draft, but he chose to transfer to Wichita State and performed better for the Shockers as an outfielder. Signed for $100,000 as a 15th-round pick in 2015, he has shown more power and speed in pro ball than he did as an amateur.
Hilliard offers considerable raw power from the left side of the plate, though he's still learning to maximize it. His 6-foot-5 frame gives him good leverage but also a long stroke that has led to swing-and-miss issues since he made the jump to full-season ball this year. He could stand to add some loft to his swing because he hits too many ground balls for someone with his pop.
Surprising for someone his size, Hilliard grades as a plus runner and could be a 20-20 player one day if he gets regular at-bats at Coors Field. After playing exclusively in right field during his pro debut, he has seen most of his action in left field this year. His arm, which delivered 88-92 fastballs in college, is strong enough for either position.