Fantasy Baseball

Weekend Takeaways/The Rich Hill Conundrum

Pitchers seem to be having trouble with blisters in greater volume this year than in year’s past.  Already Noah Syndergaard, Corey Kluber and Aaron Sanchez have been affected in some form or fashion by a blister issue on their pitching hand.  Of course, we cannot talk about pitcher blisters without discussing Rich Hill.  Hill was continuously put into and pulled out of the rotation in last year’s second half with blister problems.  I (and most of the fantasy community) definitely downplayed this injury in the offseason.  Unfortunately, it has reared its head again.

In this young season, Hill has made one start, been placed on the DL with a blister issue, and yesterday, his return start was cut short by a recurrence of the blister issue.  A return to the DL looms.  The news following this start was not good – it was reported that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts would not rule out moving Hill to the bullpen in an effort to alleviate the blister issue.

Normally, a blister issue, much as it is in real life, is just a pain in the neck, inconvenient, and that’s all I would chalk it up to with Syndergaard, Kluber and Sanchez (who was also DLed).  Rich Hill is another situation entirely.  Hill’s injury history is lengthy, but we were always more concerned about arm issues than we were with finger/blister problems.  Nonetheless, he is still missing time and now, despite a multiyear contract with Dodgers, apparently under consideration for a move to the bullpen.  What do you do with him?

Much like our discussion about Garrett Richards on last week’s podcast, it will be extremely difficult for a Rich Hill owner to find anyone willing to give up anything of value for him.  His lengthy injury track record, the reoccurring blister problem and the mere mention of “bullpen” make him a near-toxic risk asset.  In earnest, I would recommend that you hold Hill, much as we recommended the same with Richards.  Hope that he comes back and makes a couple of positive starts and then divest before the blister (or another issue) resurfaces.  If you have your heart set on moving on, I think there are two roads you can take, neither of which is particularly appealing.

Option 1: You can sell for another underperforming or risky asset.  If you opt to go for struggling, but healthy player, I would eyeball Vincent Velasquez, who has struggled out of the gate.  Of course, Velasquez carries similar health risks to Hill, but also has awesome upside.  His early inconsistencies might be enough to have an owner willing to dump him and take the shot on Hill (with a waiver wire fill-in until Hill returns).  Other options would be a straight swap for a currently injured player – Garrett Richards and Carlos Rodon are two options.  Like Hill, these two are extremely risky, but Richards and Rodon are more likely to be all-or-none types (if or) upon their eventual return than Hill, who could continue to be in and out.  Another injury risk with a less severe injury (but a bad situation) – Jon Gray – could be the most appealing option if you can pry him from a concerned owner.

Option 2: You can also sell for a higher floor, middling asset and just cut your upside loss.  If you are lacking safety in the remainder of your staff, you may want to secure some high-floor innings.  Marco Estrada, Gio Gonzalez, Ian Kennedy, and Matt Moore all spring off the page as players that will likely provide you with quality innings in the 3.50 to 3.75 ERA range (or a little better if you play the matchups carefully).  Although they lack Hill’s upside, those three are in good situations and have the ability to pile up innings at the back of your staff.  With this option, you might even be able to get a throw-in bat that you like along with the starter.

My other takeaways:

-I know that I am one of the lowest people on Michael Pineda, but anyone that is not telling you to try to sell right now is crazy.  Although the change-up usage is up slightly, we have seen this form from Pineda in short stints before, do not get sucked into it.  This year, he is actually in the zone more than year’s past.  Hitters are making more contact on him.  Soon balls in play will start falling for hits, the HR/9 is still 1.4+ per 9 innings.  I would happily sell him for Jerad Eickhoff or Aaron Nola, take my profit and walk away,, leaving someone else to hold the bag when the bottom falls out.

-I own shares of Amir Garrett in dynasty so I am high on him, but we are really going to find out a lot about Garrett this week with dates against Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs.  I think in 12 team mixers, Garrett is probably a last pitcher or streaming option – his 50% ownership level on Yahoo! might be a tad high for tastes.  His LOB% is above 90%, he’s not shown strikeout stuff (6.39 K/9 so far) and the batted ball data while still volatile is not Keuchel-esque.

-Eric Thames is in the Matrix right – it’s all just 1s and 0s to him.  The regression police are going to be out in full force, but I do not think he’s going off a cliff any time soon.  He is making a ridiculous amount of hard contact, showing good patience at the dish (11% BB%) and not swinging and missing (7.0 SwStr%).  Thames has been hitting second and with Ryan Braun behind him, he has ample protection.  We loved the player this offseason and for those that caught him dropping because of spring, kudos to you.  He is a major asset right now.  I would hold unless someone blew my doors off.

-Victor Martinez was one of my favorite draft day values and now, he is one of my favorite buy low candidates – he is even available in some leagues (69% ownership).  Although the strikeouts are up a bit and he has shown zero power – his ISO is .000 – Martinez is a perfect example of a player that is simply getting unlucky.  While not stable, his Hard Ct% is above 50%, his line drive percentage is above 30%, and his swinging strike percentage is flat (7.4% compared to 7.3% in 2016) so there is little concern about average, lack of power and slight increase in strikeout rate.  Buy, buy, buy.




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