SF Giants top prospects: No. 26 — OF Patrick “PJ” Hilson
Highest Level: Rookie (AZL)
Acquired: Draft (2018)
Future-Value Grade: 35+
P.J. Hilson is the definition of a scout’s prospect. Hilson is a plus-plus runner with a plus-plus arm and above-average raw power. Following turning pro, Baseball America named him the best athlete, best arm, and fastest player in the entire Giants system. If everything comes together, that could be the foundation of a game-changer.
Of course, there’s a reason Hilson wasn’t a consensus top pick and fell to the Giants in the 6th round of the 2018 draft. He’s incredibly raw. In 327 career plate appearances in rookie ball, Hilson is hitting .201 with 120 strikeouts.
As is apparent from that performance, his hit tool is very unrefined. Hilson never played travel ball or dove into the showcase circuit. Few guys faced the jump in competition Hilson did when he turned pro.
There remains an outcome where Hilson is able to make enough content to become a star, but that outcome is still years away. Still, expectations should be tempered, even a 65th percentile outcome for Hilson probably doesn’t reach Triple-A.
A less exciting, but more attainable big-league ceiling combines Keon Broxton’s offensive profile with Kevin Kiermeier’s defense. Kiermeier is the best defensive outfielder in baseball and Hilson has the arm, speed, and instincts to play at that level. Broxton, like Hilson, had above-average power, but an underdeveloped hit tool. Broxton struck out in 38.6% of his 1026 career MLB plate appearances but managed a 20/20 season in 2017.
At this point, talking about Hilson’s major league outcomes is silly. He’s so far away and so much can change between now and then that it’s all guesswork. Even though he’s still just 19 years old, he’s mature beyond his years and team officials are confident he has the makeup to maximize his talent.
He would have been back in Rookie Ball to start 2020 and it’s hard to know where he’ll start in a “back to normal” 2021. He’ll be the age of a young college sophomore next year, so it’s worth keeping that context in mind when viewing him as a prospect. While he’s further from his ceiling than anyone else on the list, he has time to reach it.