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Power shortage caused a struggling season for Sam Hilliard in 2022

Sam Hilliard lacked power that gave a promising start to his career in 2022, but will get a fresh start after trade to Atlanta

Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

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No. 17, Sam Hilliard: 0.4 rWAR

2022 marked the fourth season for Sam Hilliard as a role player in the Rockies’ outfield. Hilliard broke into the big leagues in 2019 as a September call up in which he homered seven times in 77 at bats. The following season, Hilliard hit six homers in 36 games in the COVID-shortened season in 2020. In 2021, Hilliard got the most playing time of his career, playing 81 games and slashing a modest .215/.294/.324 and 14 long balls. Appearing in 70 games this past season, Hilliard slashed .182/.280/.264, by far his worse season at the plate in his four year career.

Hilliard has been known as a high strikeout, high home run hitter. He will get his fair share of strikeouts, but when he gets ahold of one, it will go for a ride. The power just was not there this season. Hilliard only hit two home runs in 200 plate appearances this season, but really only had one good weekend against the Royals in terms of home runs. Hilliard hit both of his bombs this season in back to back games in May 13 and 14, and did not get another the rest of the season.

For a player with a 28.5% strikeout rate, two homers and a 48 OPS+ is not going to lead to much success at the plate. Like many Rockies’ hitters in 2022, ground ball rates were a key component to the lack of offensive power in the lineup. When Hilliard put the ball in play, it was hit on the ground 44.5% of the time, which is not ideal for a power hitter playing at hitter friendly Coors Field. The good news for Hilliard is when he does barrel the ball up he has the ability to have one of the highest exit velocity (EV) in the league. In 2022, his max EV was 115.1 mph off the bat, which according to was in the top 3% in the league recorded by Statcast this season. If Hilliard can find his swing again and put the ball in the air, his EV ability can combine to make baseballs fly a long way.

While things at the plate were not how Hilliard or the Rockies would have wanted, he was able to put together a solid defensive season in the outfield. Hilliard played all three outfield positions, mostly in center and left field to replace the often injured Kris Bryant. In 470 innings in the outfield, Hilliard did not record a single error and two throwing assists. One of his best plays in the field this year was robbing a home run from San Diego’s Brand Drury on August 4th.

With the way that the season went for Sam Hilliard, he was prime candidate for the Rockies to move on from. The Rockies opened up the offseason with the first trade of the winter, sending Sam Hilliard to the Atlanta Braves for a minor league pitcher. You can read about the trade in detail here. With the trade to Atlanta, Hilliard has a chance to get a fresh start with a new organization and the Rockies were able to make extra room on their 40-man roster and add a RHP to their prospect pool.

Thanks for the memories Sam, and best of luck in Atlanta!

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