Destin D. Hood
Harrisburg Senators (Washington Nationals)
Born: April 3rd, 1990 in Mobile, Alabama
Height/Weight: 6’2″/220 LBS
Comparable MLB Players: Rondell White, Aaron Rowand, Alex Rios
Raw Power: 60/65
Power Frequency: 35/50
Plate Discipline: 35/40
Running Speed: 65/65
Arm Strength: 40/45
Arm Accuracy: 45/55
One of the most highly touted members of USA Today’s 2008 All-USA High School Baseball Team, Hood was a superb prospect coming out of St. Paul’s Episcopal high school in Alabama. He starred in both baseball and football, and attracted attention from waves of scouts for looking to sign him.
On the diamond, Hood tore the cover off the ball during his final two high school seasons. As a junior in 2007, he hit a monster .517 with 7 home runs and 36 RBI. He showcased his elite-level speed as well, swiping 43 bags and racking up four triples and fifteen extra-base hits. His performance earned him a spot at the Aflac All-American Game, and he ended up launching eight home runs in the showcase’s home run derby held at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
Hood continued his extraordinary hitting as a senior, posting a .485 batting average and mashing eight homers. He took home honors as Alabama’s 5-A Player of the Year, and packed his trophy room with a number of other awards and accolades.
On the football field, Destin was arguably an even better prospect. A star wide receiver and defensive back, he led St. Paul’s to a 5-A state championship as a senior, tallying 56 catches and 955 receiving yards. Scouts drooled over his ability on both sides of the ball, and he was named a four-star recruit by Rivals.com and one of the top 50 prospects in the nation. He signed to play both baseball and football for Nick Saban’s famed Crimson Tide, though he wouldn’t end up honoring that commitment.
Impressed by his remarkable athleticism, the Nationals drafted Hood in the second round of 2008′s MLB draft, and handed him big money to turn down his football and baseball scholarships at the University of Alabama. At least a handful of other ballclubs had even viewed Hood as a legitimate top-20 draft talent at the time, but his strong college commitment was seen as too big an obstacle. The Nationals however, had plenty to spend, and because they were locked-in a full-fledged rebuilding phase they had the patience to develop Hood’s raw game.
Hood started his pro career in the Rookie Leagues, where the Nationals believed he would stay for the majority of his first two seasons. Despite his special athleticism, the club saw Hood’s large frame and weak arm as poor fits for shortstop, his high school position. They decided to move him to the outfield where his tools could eventually make him a premium defender. To help smooth the transition, they also had him work closely with coaches Paul Sanagorski, Marlon Anderson and Sergio Mendez on his swing mechanics and fielding.
Hood started his career off much faster than the Nats’ initially expected. After hitting .330/.388/.614 to open 2009, Hood earned a promotion to the New York Penn League to finish out the season. He then made the jump to class-A Hagerstown for 2010, and proceeded to hit .356 in the first month of the season. Continuing to work closely with glove coach Tony Tarasco and Marlon Anderson–who’s proving to be a hitting guru after overhauling Michael Taylor’s swing– Hood performed especially well against more seasoned competition. He finished the year batting a rock-solid .285, and though he hit just 5 home runs in 492 at bats, he showed plenty of power potential by wrapping 38 extra-base hits.
The Nationals decided to challenge Hood in 2011 by promoting him to the more competitive Carolina League. While it’s widely considered to be one of the most favorable circuits for pitchers, Hood put together his best season to date. Adding more loft to his swing, he started carrying more of his huge raw power in to games, belting thirteen home runs and 47 extra-base hits through 463 at bats. He continued to make solid contact, posting a .276 batting average, but he showed a much more improved batting eye. He drew 58 walks, a huge jump considering he totalled just 60 walks through his first three seasons (912 plate appearances).
Despite Hood’s initial billing as a raw, player development project, the Nationals continued to push him with another aggressive assignment in 2012. They sent him to the Eastern League–where the average age is between 24 and 25 years old–to man the outfield corners for the Harrisburg Senators. He fell on his face out of the gate, collecting just one hit through his first twenty-five at bats, and then slumped in May. His struggles caused him to revert back to his hyper-aggressive approach, hacking at anything he could see. But before the wheels could fall off completely, Hood went on the disabled list at the end of May with a sore wrist.
When he returned from the DL, Hood continued where he left off at the end of 2011 and started driving more hittable pitches. After batting .220 in the first two months of the season, he hit .274 in June and July, and collected 8 extra-base hits in 102 at bats. He finished off the season strong too, with eight hits in his final 18 at bats.
Overall, the Nationals were happy with Hood’s progress. Their director of minor league operations, Mark Scialabba, commended Hood’s willingness to battle through injuries and was impressed with the twenty-one-year-old’s improvements at the plate and in the outfield. The franchise still firmly believes he’s part of their long-term formula, and they’re excited to see him use more of his athleticism on the diamond moving forward.
Hitting and Power
Hood is a tremendous athlete, boasting big-money tools. His best asset is his raw power, which has rated at least plus since he was in high school. A former top football prospect, he’s built with a big, broad muscular frame, with wide, sloped shoulders and a well-developed lower body. His extraordinary strength and balance helps him generate premium bat speed effortlessly, and he uses his lower body and core to whip the barrel through a remarkably smooth, firm path.
Hood has such electric bat speed that’s he’s actually learned to lengthen his swing with a small wrap in his bat, helping his hands sync-up better with his front hip. Largely a product of his premium coordination, he gracefully transfers power from his core and legs to his hands. He takes a clean medium stride, cocks his hands back and plants his front foot in one fluid motion, and then explodes through the ball by lengthening and then firing his abdominal muscles. He generally does a nice job of drawing his hands in toward his belt buckle as he drags the bat across the plate, helping to accelerate the barrel with extra leverage. But, he’s also more than strong enough to extend his arms and crush outside pitches to the opposite field.
Hood hits with power to all fields. He drops his front shoulder only slightly, and his ability to get his body behind the ball while keeping his swing quiet and level helps him loft the ball. When he gets his pitch, he has huge pop to his pull side especially, and his understated uppercut makes him a threat to take same-side stuff out to left field. He’s so strong and balanced that he has plenty of opposite field power as well, and when he extends his arms, he doesn’t trade strength for plate coverage. If he can continue to improve his pitch recognition and plate discipline, and he can learn to stay closed and back, Hood has 30+ home run potential in the big leagues.
With a mechanically sound, effortless swing, and premium hand-eye coordination, Hood has the tools to hit for average as well. Beyond his strength, what sets Hood apart at the plate is his uncanny balance. His hips don’t drift in his swing, and he keeps his head centered as he rotates and his back leg doesn’t drag through contact. These traits not only allow him to repeat his mechanics more easily, but they help him direct the bat head seamlessly to the baseball.
Hood can catch up to premium heat already and he has strong hands and great bat control for a guy with such a powerful cut. In terms of mechanics, the biggest issue he’s faced throughout his career is his tendency to open his front foot early, and get out in front of off-speed stuff. As a result, he’s been very prone to whiffing at same-side breaking pitches. When he does recognize the bender, and he keeps his front foot closed longer, he has little trouble making quality contact even as the pitch sweeps away from him.
Weighted On-Base Average
Approach and Plate Discipline
Despite his premium power and pretty swing, Hood is still a ways from making a big league impact. His plate discipline, though improving, is still well below average and he struggles to recognize quality breaking pitches. He has the hands and bat control to adjust, but he chases unhittable pitches off the plate far too often. And even now that he’s learning to walk more, his strikeout totals have continued to balloon, largely because he’ll take a hittable pitch in the name of working the count.
Hood’s aggressive approach and poor batting eye hurts both his batting average and power frequency. In batting practice, he regularly launches light tower big flies to left center, but in games he puts too many pitcher’s pitches in play. Even so however, when he does make contact, his huge plate coverage and power keeps it loud.
On the Bases
When he was drafted, Hood was able to run a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, a 6.6-second 60-yard dash and he could get from home plate to first base in 4.2 seconds. He was already a plus to fringe plus-plus pure runner, and he’d used his wheels to rack up stolen bases, as well as receiving yards, during his amateur career at St. Paul’s. As a pro, his base running ability proved to be raw and he stole just 15 bases (in 25 attempts) through his first three seasons (215 games). He took a step forward in 2011, when he swiped 21 bags in the South Atlantic League, but still hasn’t been much of a base-stealing threat.
Since he was drafted, Hood has filled out and thickened considerably. His motor has slowed some but he still can get down the line with above-average to plus speed. He’ll need to become a more confident and aggressive baserunner if he ever wants to swipe twenty-bags in a big league season, but he’s already very strong at stretching extra-base hits. Hood’s long legs hamper his acceleration from a stand still but he also has another gear, making him a great first-to-third runner. As he polishes his game and grows more comfortable in pro ball, he should start to put more pressure on opposing defenders to keep his legs at bay.
Fielding and Arm
Though Hood has the requisite loose hips and fluidity to play a strong center field, the Nationals’ system is extremely deep at the position, with Brian Goodwin, Michael Taylor, Eury Perez and Bryce Harper. So, they’ve decided to develop Hood as a corner outfielder, where his power potential profiles well and his fielding ability could make him an eventual Gold Glove caliber defender.
In the outfield, Hood is developing premium range. The same balance and coordination that helps him take a smooth, graceful swing also helps him track down fly balls cleanly and directly. He’s blessed with acrobatic body control–arguably as good as that of the system’s other top athlete’s Brian Goodwin and Michael Taylor–and he can make difficult catches on the dead run. True to his background as an All-State wide receiver, he tracks the ball easily over either shoulder, and can make catches from tough angles. He covers tons of ground quickly and smoothly, with a long, coordinated stride, and he exhibits great vision helping him take direct routes to tailing and knuckling deep flies. He’s also superb at playing the wall, and he’s capable of making Spiderman-style grabs.
Tools other defensive tools lag well behind his range, but he’s still shaping up to be a strong corner outfielder overall. His arm strength is at least a tick below average, and his throwing mechanics–though improving–aren’t conducive to adding velocity. He still drops his elbow when he throws, which adds carry but sacrifices velocity as he has less of his body behind the ball. Still, his error totals are fairly low, partly because he’s sure-handed but also because he consistently makes accurate throws. He also gets rid of the ball quickly, with a short release.
Overall, Hood has the tools to develop in to a premium defensive left fielder. He has the speed, hands and body control to play a strong centerfield as well, and if the Nationals want to continue to play him primarily in right, his other skills more than make up for his weak-but-accurate arm.
Intangibles and Makeup
Outside of psychological exams, judging a prospect’s aptitude, leaderships ability and whether he’s mentally fit to succeed in an highly stressful line of work is an extremely difficult job. However, using a cursory examination, Hood certainly shows the mental traits to succeed in the big leagues. Even in his earliest interviews as a pro, Destin has maintained that he’s strives to become not only a complete player, but a better person. He’s fiercely dedicated to backing up his statements, and he keeps himself in premium shape and works tirelessly with his coaches.
Hood has made huge strides with his mechanics and overall technique since his days playing at St. Paul’s Episcopal, and a large portion of the credit goes to his strong nerve and his determination to become a big leaguer. He still has a ways to go, but so far, he’s done a nice job of handling the pressures that follow a big money contract like the one he signed out of high school. He quietly goes about his business every day, and for the most part, he’s stepped up to the plate and performed even when the Nats front office pitted him against more seasoned competition. His coaches only have positive things to say about him, and Nats manager Davey Johnson has lauded his rapid improvement more than once.
When Hood was drafted out of his Alabama high school as a star football and baseball player, he was widely considered a high risk/high reward prospect. Knowing that he was going to be a player development project, the Nationals were happy to hand him a $1.1 million dollar bonus anyway. Since then, he has worked hard to put his top-notch athletic ability to good use come game time. He’s still a couple of seasons from competing for a big league job, but if he continues to polish his work at the dish, he should eventually be a tier-1 corner outfielder.
After his breakout 2011 campaign legitimized his top prospect status, Hood proved his drive and dedication by fighting through injuries last season in the Eastern League. Despite the adversity, he once again showed improved power, hitting and fielding ability. This time though, he did it against some of the minor’s most polished pitchers.
Hood’s plate discipline is still his weakest attribute, but if he can learn to work the count better and exercise a more selective approach, then the sky is the limit. It’s really the only thing holding his stock back from jumping in to the blue chip ranks. He has the raw power to hit 30 home runs, and he drives balls out to all fields. His smooth, quiet swing and his hand-eye coordination should also help him hit for a good average. To complete the package, the athletic ability that made him a top-shelf wide receiver has helped him become an above-average defensive outfielder.