Juan Hillman Thrives On Throwing Strikes

By Nathan Rode
National Supervisor

One of the top southpaws in the country, Juan Hillman (Olympia HS, FL) possesses more than just stuff. He knows command is just as important and he prides himself on his ability to locate all of his pitches.

“Every time I take the mound, I always think, the faster I’m out of there, the better,” Hillman said. “I always take the mound trying to get everybody out, have great command of my fastball, changeup and curveball.

“I’m able to throw the pitch where I want when I want it.”

Hillman is put together physically, standing at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds. He’ll likely weigh more by spring as he is working out his lower body during this offseason to strengthen his legs. He’s athletic with a fluid delivery and pitches from a 3/4 slot with a loose, quick arm. He sits comfortably in the high 80s and can routinely touch 90 mph or better. His ability to pound the strike zone was on display at the World Wood Bat Championship in Jupiter, FL. With a huge crowd of scouts behind the plate, Hillman breezed through two innings of working. He struck out all six batters he faced, threw first-pitch strikes to five of the six hitters and missed the zone with just five of his 23 pitches.

Hillman says his command comes naturally to him, but he does give football some credit for helping.

“I used to be a quarterback and always tried to get the passes right,” he said. “I’d get on myself with bad passes and that carried over to the baseball field.”

A low-70s curveball with big break and mid-70s changeup round out Hillman’s arsenal.

The Central Florida recruit has also received some major league tutelage. He has been living with Tom Gordon, a major league veteran of 21 seasons, since his sophomore year. That has given Hillman an opportunity to pick the brain of an accomplished pitcher and get a preview of the draft experience as Gordon’s son, Nick, was a fixture on the prospect radar and ultimately selected fifth overall by the Twins in the 2014 draft.

Olympia has had a string of high draft picks in recent years with OF Jesse Winker (49th overall, Reds) and RHP Walker Weickel (55th overall, Padres) getting popped in 2012 and Gordon last year. Hillman has a chance to join that list, but has something else on his mind.

“We want that state ring,” he said. “Olympia never made it to state. We’ve always been so close and always just fallen short. I feel like we have a chance.”

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