When the A’s signed Rich Hill to a one-year deal last offseason, it was seen as a risky move on a fairly unknown commodity – a veteran who had pitched very sparingly for a few years and made a few good starts in late 2015.
But the veteran reclamation project is a secret no longer.
After a 2016 season in which he went 12-5 with a 2.12 ERA and 0.997 WHIP in 20 starts between the A’s and Dodgers, he got himself a three-year guarantee this offseason from the Dodgers worth $48 million.
Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Outlook
The downside to Hill in 2016, however, was that he only made those 20 starts – 110 1/3 innings. In mid-July, while still with Oakland, he was scratched from a start due to a blister, and then it became a lingering problem for him for the rest of the season. He was on the disabled list when the Dodgers sent three pitching prospects to Oakland for Hill and Josh Reddick at the trade deadline on August 1, and it wasn’t until August 24 that he threw his first pitch as a member of the Dodgers.
From this standpoint, however, he fit right in with the 2016 Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw missed significant time with a back injury, and Scott Kazmir only made one start after August 22 because of nagging injuries. Hyun-Jin Ryu has only made one big league start in two seasons, spending most of that time battling injuries, and Brandon McCarthy didn’t rejoin the rotation until July after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
There are a lot of question marks when it comes to the durability of this rotation, Hill or no Hill. But what Hill brings to the Dodgers that no other L.A. starter besides Kershaw brings is ace-level ability, even if that ends up only being 20-25 starts. His strikeout ability remains top notch, with a 10.5 K/9 last season that would've been sixth best in baseball had he had enough innings to qualify - and he throws one of the most devastating curveballs in the game.
Dodgers Pitching Depth Chart
From a fantasy perspective, any starting pitching acquisition affects players down the depth chart. Hill should slot in as the #2 starter behind Kershaw in the Dodgers’ rotation, followed by some combination of Julio Urias, Kenta Maeda and whoever is the healthiest between McCarthy, Kazmir and Ryu. The is a rotation built around veterans, save for Urias. And even with the injury concerns, that would make Jose De Leon about eighth on the depth chart and probably the odd man out, despite his high ceiling.
The 24-year-old righty made his big league debut in September of last season, making four starts and going 2-0 with a 6.35 ERA. But he remains one of the best pitching prospects in the game, having pitched to a 7-1 record, 2.61 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 16 starts in AAA in 2016. He finds himself among the top 25 or even the top 10 on most lists of top prospects, but he’s probably going to have to be traded to team that can give him a rotation spot going into 2017 if he’s going to hold much fantasy value for the full season.
The good news is he has been rumored to be the main trade piece in a potential deal for the Twins’ Brian Dozier, and if that happens, fantasy owners who grabbed him last season as a keeper option will have more to look forward to in 2017. In four seasons in the minors, he has showed some great swing-and-miss stuff with a 12.1 career K/9.
Conclusion & Draft Value
If you take the average number of fantasy points Hill had per start, he was a top 10 starting pitcher in most fantasy leagues last year. But, fantasy owners have to be concerned about just how much time they’ll have to deal with him being on the shelf.
Last season, he had an average draft pick position of 289, and he’ll certainly be higher this year, though the top 100 is probably too early to draft him with the durability concerns and age. Fantasy owners who can draft him somewhere in the mid-100s, however, could get the value they need from that draft position – or better if he is able to stay healthier in 2017.
Check out RotoBaller's entire 2017 fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and sleepers list, updated daily!