In August 2015, Rich Hill was pitching in independent ball after a long, mostly unremarkable career. He hadn't started a major league game since 2009. Then he signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox, impressed in four starts, signed a one-year deal with the Athletics, impressed even more, and was traded to the Dodgers to be their postseason No. 2 starter. By the end of the 2016 season, he had a 2.00 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 24 starts since that Red Sox deal. Unfortunately, he also missed significant time with a groin strain and blisters, the latter of which forced the Dodgers to limit his innings and pull him after seven innings of a potential perfect game. The driving force behind his reinvention is a monster curveball he throws for nearly half his pitches, dropping it in at any point in the count and from multiple arm angles. The injuries remain a major red flag for the 36-year-old, but he's found a unique way to prevent runs at an elite level.
Hill held the Reds to one run (zero earned) on one hit while walking three and striking out three in Tuesday's spring training win. The veteran lefty bounced back nicely after getting roughed up in his first two appearances in March. He still struggled with his control (10 walks in 8.2 spring innings), but the strong results are an encouraging sight for his fantasy owners. Age and durability over the course of a whole season remain a concern, but Hill proved that he can be a dominant force on the mound last season, and he should be treated as such until the results tell us otherwise.
Hill struggled with his control Wednesday, walking four batters and allowing three runs over 1.2 innings in a loss to Milwaukee. Hill has put up two clunkers after his sharp Cactus League debut. His spot in the rotation is safe, but fantasy owners would like to see better results from the soon-to-be 37-year-old. The veteran southpaw did have an 11.25 spring training ERA last year before going on his unexpected dominant run in the regular season, so we shouldn't overreact to his current exhibition struggles.
Hill faced the minimum in his two innings of work Sunday, striking out two and picking off the only batter he allowed on base in a 10-8 win over the Brewers. Despite his advanced age and lack of consistency throughout his career, the Dodgers re-signed Hill this past offseason with hopes that he could repeat last year's 2.12 ERA across 110.1 innings. While relying on a 36-year-old late bloomer in fantasy sounds risky, it is hard to argue against the numbers. The combination of his 3.9 K/BB, 0.3 HR/9 and a 2.26 FIP all scream "fantasy ace." The biggest downside to Hill would have to be his durability. 2016 was the first time the southpaw has thrown over 100 major league innings since 2007, so there is some concern surrounding whether he will hold up for the entire season.
Hill signed a three-year, $48 million contract with the Dodgers on Monday, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports. Hill will turn 37 years old before next season begins, but the Dodgers are confident he has a few good years left in him and decided to extend what was a brief stint with the club at the end of last season. It remains to be seen exactly where Hill will slot into what figures to be a deep Dodgers rotation in 2017, but -- if healthy -- he is seemingly the favorite to head into the year as the No. 2 starter behind ace Clayton Kershaw.
Hill appears to be close to resigning with the Dodgers, according to Peter Gammons. The rumored deal would be for three years and $40M, a nice lift from the $6M, one-year deal he had for the 2016 season. Hill will turn 37 before the start of the 2017 season. His numbers were even better after being traded to the Dodgers, sporting a 1.83 ERA and 0.79 WHIP over six starts.