Last August, Rich Hill was a 35-year-old pitching for the independent league Long Island Ducks. Now 36, Hill has a 2.42 ERA this month and is third in the American League in strikeouts.
Hill was electric against the Tigers on Tuesday night, striking out eight batters, walking none and allowing just four singles across seven shutout innings. The left-hander now boasts a 37/9 K/BB ratio over 26 innings on the season.
The recipe for Hill’s success both at the tail-end of last season with the Red Sox (1.55 ERA, 36/5 K/BB ratio over 29 frames) and this April has been pretty simple. He has two good pitches in a low-90s fastball and a nasty curveball, and that’s all he throws. OK, he has a changeup, but it’s a pitch that’s barely part of his game plan. Hill is going to live and die with the fastball and curveball. So far, it’s worked.
It’s not hard to see that the odds over the long-term are stacked against Hill. We’re talking about a 36-year-old who only throws two pitches and who has made just 22 starts since the beginning of 2010. Not 22 starts in the majors, 22 starts at any level. We’re also talking about a guy who has had major control problems in the past who walked seven guys over his previous two outings prior to Tuesday.
Hill almost surely isn’t going to make 30 starts this season. He might not even make 20, as we just have no idea how his 36-year-old arm is going to hold up after many years of not starting. It makes him an ideal candidate to trade if you feel you can get good value, but don’t give up all of that strikeout potential unless you get a fair return. Hill’s next start will come against the Astros, a team that’s struck out more than any other so far in 2016.
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Twins Bring Up Berrios
It doesn’t appear the intention was to get a look at Berrios quite this soon, but injuries to Ervin Santana (back) and Kyle Gibson (shoulder) forced the club’s hand. Of course, Berrios also did his best to force their hand with what he’s done so far at Triple-A Rochester. The 21-year-old has put up a 1.06 ERA in his first three starts this season, striking out 20 and walking eight over 17 frames. That’s after Berrios posted a 2.87 ERA and 175/38 K/BB ratio across 166 1/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A last season.
Berrios entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 28 overall prospect and No. 11 pitching prospect in baseball. The general feeling in the scouting community is that he’ll at least be a mid-rotation type starter, with the possibility for more. Berrios has displayed great control in the minors, which should help ease his transition to the majors even as he won’t turn 22 until next month.
The feeling is that both Santana and Gibson could be back from the disabled list when eligible, but Berrios could still stick around if he pitches well given the struggles of Tommy Milone (5.40 ERA). He’s worth scooping up in all fantasy formats.
Not to be overlooked with the excitement over Berrios’ promotion is the fact that Tyler Duffey will now stay in the rotation for a while after he was supposed to only be up for a spot start. Duffey is an interesting guy in his own right, having put up a 3.05 ERA and 54/22 K/BB ratio over 62 innings in his 11 big league outings. He’s also held a 2.46 ERA across 25 starts in the minors since the beginning of last season. Duffey doesn’t have the upside of Berrios, but he should be on the radar in deeper formats.
Red Sox manager John Farrell surprised many when he named Travis Shaw the team’s third baseman over Pablo Sandoval late in spring training. It’s obviously still early, but it’s certainly looking like Farrell made the right call.
Whereas Sandoval went on the disabled list a week into the season and might require shoulder surgery, Shaw has thrived for Boston, batting .324/.392/.521 with two home runs and 14 RBI over his first 20 games. The 26-year-old slugged a three-run homer while also adding a two-RBI double in Tuesday’s blowout victory over the Braves.
Shaw can be considered a bit of a late bloomer. A ninth-round pick in the 2011 draft, the infielder never ranked high on prospect lists and put up good, not great, numbers in the minors. He averaged 19 homers in his three full minor league seasons and often showed good on-base skills. However, a .261/.359/.445 line on the farm isn’t anything to get overly excited about. Shaw surprised when he got a chance last season, though, smacking 13 homers over 248 plate appearances, and he’s carried that over with a nice April.
What Shaw has going for him is his leash on the third base job looks to be pretty long with Sandoval possibly sidelined for a while. He’s also mostly been hitting sixth in a good Red Sox batting order, which isn’t a bad spot to be.
National League Quick Hits: Andrew McCutchen slugged three homers and drove in five runs in Tuesday’s win over the Rockies ... Johnny Cueto recorded 11 strikeouts in a shutout versus the Padres on Tuesday ... Carlos Martinez allowed just three hits over eight shutout innings against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday ... The Mets placed Travis d'Arnaud on the disabled list with a strained right rotator cuff ... Brandon Moss went 4-for-5 with a double and a three-run home run in Tuesday's win over the Diamondbacks ... Yasmany Tomas went 2-for-4 with a double and a solo home run in Tuesday's loss to the Cardinals ... Yoenis Cespedes (leg) hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer in a win over the Reds on Tuesday and is expected back in the lineup Wednesday ... Scooter Gennett was scratched from the Brewers' lineup Tuesday due to right oblique tightness ... Justin Nicolino will be called up to start Wednesday versus the Dodgers, taking Jarred Cosart’s spot in the Marlins’ rotation ... Joe Ross (blister) will take his next turn in the Nationals' rotation this weekend in St. Louis ... Charlie Morton is expected to miss more than a month after an MRI revealed a severe hamstring strain ... Ben Revere (oblique) took full swings Tuesday and hopes to begin a rehab assignment soon ...
American League Quick Hits: David Price tied his career high with 14 strikeouts while allowing two runs over eight frames in a win over the Braves ... Robinson Cano belted a grand slam and drove in six runs in Tuesday’s victory over the Astros ... A.J. Griffin threw eight innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Yankees on Tuesday ... Ian Desmond went 2-for-3 with a home run, two RBI and three runs scored against the Yankees on Tuesday ... Chris Sale recorded six strikeouts while tossing eight frames of one-run ball in a win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday ... Nathan Karns whiffed six over seven shutout frames versus the Astros on Tuesday ... Avisail Garcia hit a solo homer, drove in two runs and scored three times in Tuesday's win over the Blue Jays ... Lance McCullers (shoulder) will pitch in an extended spring training game on Wednesday ... Chris Devenski will make a spot start for the Astros on Saturday in place of Scott Feldman ... Carson Smith (elbow) could join the Red Sox next week in Chicago ... Daniel Norris (back) was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A ... David Murphy has decided to retire from baseball ...