Aaron Walter Hill | 2B | 2005 - 2011
So somehow I skipped Aaron, so here he is at 29th, and I’ve moved Stewart, Mulliniks, and Gruber up a spot. Sorry, Aaron.
Aaron Hill had a 13-year MLB career, the first six and a half seasons with the Blue Jays. He was our first-round draft pick (13th overall) in 2003. He turned out to be one of the better first-round picks in that draft. Of the 12 guys picked in front of him, only Mick Markakis (33.0) had a higher bWAR than Hill’s 24.4, and the only other first-rounder with a better bWAR was Adam Jones (32.1), who was the 37th pick (a supplemental pick). Hill made Baseball America’s top 100 prospects in 2004 (96th) and 2005 (64th).
The Jays called Hill up to the majors in late May of 2005, Corey Koskie went down with an injury, and Hill got his spot on the roster. Koskie would miss 60+ games with various injuries that season. Once up, Hill stayed with the Blue Jays for the rest of the season, getting playing time at third, DH, second, and short. He hit .274/.342/.385 with 3 home runs in 105.
During the off-season, after the 2005 season, the Jays traded second baseman Orlando Hudson (along with pitcher Miguel Batista) to the Diamondbacks for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos, opening up second base for Hill. Hill hit .291/.349/.386 with 6 home runs in 155 games. Hill ended up playing some short, when Russ Adams didn’t turn out to be the answer at the position.
In 2007 Hill found some power, hitting .291/.333/.459 with 17 home runs, playing 160 games at second base. We figured we found the guy who would play second for the next decade. Defensively, he was improving, with Brian Butterfield’s help, and, at 25, his bat seemed to be developing to where it looked like he was going to be an All-Star at second. He won the ‘Fielding Bible’ award for the top second baseman. He also stole home against the Yankees on May 29th (in a 3-2 win, it was a big run).
His 2008 season ended early when he took David Eckstein's accidental elbow in the head when they collided chasing a popup on May 29th. He missed over 100 games with ‘’concussion-like symptoms. I wonder how different his career would have been without the concussion.
Hill put together the season we were all hoping to see in 2009, hitting .286/.330/.499 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI. He led the AL in PA with 734, playing in 158 games. He made his first (and last) All-Star game, he won the Silver Slugger, and finished 12th in AL MVP voting. He had the best season of his career, putting up a 5.8 bWAR (FanGraphs had him at a 4.0 WAR, they weren’t a fan of his defense. UZR had him at a -4.4/150 that season, after having him in the positives every season up until then). It was the best season we had from a second baseman since the days of Roberto Alomar.
Hill was also named ‘Jays player of the Year’, got his second Fielding Bible award, and was voted AL Comeback Player of the Year.
We were looking forward to bigger and better things from Aaron. It didn’t happen.
He started the 2010 season a deep slump. At the end of April, he was hitting .150/.306/.275 (after missing a couple of weeks with an injury). As the season went on, he seemed to sell out to being a big-time pull hitter, trying to hit a homer every time up. I thought he decided he couldn’t save his batting average, so he tried to pile up the home run count (I was likely oversimplifying it, but manager Cito Gaston liked his batters to pull the ball). He ended up with 26 home runs and .205/.271/.394 batting line.
Aaron’s 2011 season didn’t go much better. By mid-August, he was hitting just .225/.270/.313 with 6 home runs. Alex Anthopoulos decided he had enough of waiting for the 2009 version of Hill to return and traded him to the Braves (along with John McDonald) to the Diamondbacks for second baseman Kelly Johnson on August 23rd. Johnson was having a pretty poor season himself, hitting .209/.287/.412 with 18 home runs in 114 games at the trade time.
Hill became a different hitter with the Diamondbacks, hitting .315/.386/.492 in 33 games for them at the end of the season. Hill helped Arizona make it to the playoffs, where they lost out in the NLDS to the Brewers. Hill had a terrific series, hitting .278/.435/.444.
He would play with Arizona for five seasons, hitting ..273/.331/.439 with 55 homers in 525 games. From there, he would play a season each with the Brewers, Red Sox, and Giants.
Aaron had a 13-year MLB career, hitting .266/.323/.417 with 162 home runs. As a Blue Jay he hit .265/.318/.413 with 96 home runs in 875 games. With the Jays he has a 92 OPS+, with the Diamondbacks it was 108.
He had an up and down career, but then many second basemen have careers like that. Back in the ‘’old days’ base runners would slide through the second baseman as he turned the double play (usually with their back turned from the base runner). Second basemen tended to have to deal with minor injuries (and not so minor injuries), though not many are put out for most of a season by a teammate's elbow. Maybe that has something to do with the inconsistency of their careers. Thankfully, runners are no longer allowed to knock the 2B into center field on the slide anymore.
His career was up and down, with the Jays he had bWARs of 1.5, 3.9, 5.2, 0.6, 5.8, 1.9, and -0.9.
Four years ago, we had a poll to pick the second-best second baseman in Blue Jays history and Aaron was the easy winner.
MLB.com did an interview with him last year. He and his wife moved to Houston, and have two kids. He helps coach ‘the local high school team’, and stays off social media:
I’m like, “One night I’m going to drink too much wine and I’m going to say something stupid and upset people and I’ll be trending on Yahoo,”
Aaron Hill’s place among Blue Jays hitters:
Batting Average: 26th, .265
OBP: 36th, .318
Slugging: 34th, .413
Games Played: 22nd, 875
Plate Appearances: 17th, 3642
Doubles: 14th, 188
Home Runs: 20th, 96
RBI: 16, 409