Week Ahead: King of the Hill

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It’s become all too apparent that we shouldn’t doubt Rich Hill.

The Rays 41-year-old lefty signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with Tampa Bay this offseason, but he the signing didn’t bring much optimism given his age, declining velocity, and mediocre 7.2 K/9 with Minnesota last season. After beginning his season with four consecutive poor starts and an 8.82 ERA, it was fair to question if the end of Hill’s career was imminent.

Apparently, the switch flipped this month. Hill has been one of baseball’s best pitchers during May, lowering his ERA from 7.25 to 3.63 over five starts with a total of three runs allowed in 29.2 innings and 34/10 K/BB.

Hill’s fastball velocity has remained down this year, averaging about 88 mph, but his fantastic curveball has been more than good enough to make up the difference. He’s continued to throw the pitch more than 40% of the time, and he’s getting whiffs not only on that pitch but also his fastball. His K/9 is back at 10.0, above his outstanding career norm of 9.6.

There’s reason to expect some regression based on Hill’s .240 BABIP, and he remains a major injury risk who hasn’t thrown more than 135.2 innings in an MLB season since 2007. That said, he’s been a spectacular draft pick or pickup for those fantasy managers who kept the faith, and looks worthy even in a two-start week that includes a visit to Yankee Stadium.

-Another veteran lefty still worthy of your attention is Mike Minor. His early season results haven’t been nearly as good as Hill, with a 4.83 ERA in 10 starts, but there’s reason to expect a turnaround. Minor is getting strikeouts at a 27% rate, the best of his career as a starter, and his ERA metrics (4.07 FIP, 3.90 SIERA) suggest he’s been much better than the ERA looks. Minor has also done a better job keeping the ball in the park this month, allowing a total of two homers in five starts, so it’s not a surprise to see his ERA declining slowly but surely. A very attractive two-start week against the Pirates and Twins should help that ERA even more.

-Patience is paying off for those who drafted Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks after a nightmarish start to the season. His ERA is now at 4.63, nearly three runs lower than what it was at the conclusion of April. He’s shown nearly perfect control with only three walks in 33.2 innings in May, and until Thursday’s start, he was doing a much better job keeping the ball in the park. He doesn’t have the easiest schedule next week against the Padres and Giants, but Hendricks is back to being a plug-and-play in most leagues based on his recent success.

-The Rockies have another homestand next week, which creates a conundrum for rosters with German Marquez. The Rockies ace has done well to fix his early issues, lowering his ERA to 4.47 on Thursday after a nice start against the Mets. Still, two starts at Coors Field is difficult for anyone, and Marquez has a 4.91 ERA in seven starts at Coors Field this season and 5.08 ERA in Colorado for his career. Starts against Texas and Oakland aren’t going to be the toughest he sees this year, but the size of your league and categorically needs could determine whether the two starts are worth the risk.

-To the chagrin of hitters and delight of pitchers, the Blue Jays will be going north from Dunedin to Buffalo for their home games in June. They have five games in Buffalo next week, a park that has generally played slightly favorable for pitchers.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, May 28, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Carlos Rodon: @CLE, DET

Tyler Glasnow: @NYY, @TEX

Jose Berrios: @BAL, @KC

Michael Pineda: @BAL, @KC

Decent Plays

Dylan Cease: @CLE, DET

Jordan Montgomery: TB, BOS

Rich Hill: @NYY, @TEX

Mike Minor: PIT, MIN

Luis Garcia: BOS, @TOR

Brady Singer: PIT, MIN

Jose Urena: @MIL, @CHW

Jose Urquidy: BOS, @TOR

Logan Gilbert: OAK, @LAA

James Kaprielian: @SEA, @COL

Dane Dunning: @COL, TB

At Your Own Risk

Nick Pivetta: @HOU, @NYY

Garrett Richards: @HOU, @NYY

Triston McKenzie: CHW, @BAL

Jorge Lopez: MIN, CLE

National League

Strong Plays

Corbin Burnes: DET, ARI

Trevor Bauer: STL, @ATL

Joe Musgrove: @CHC, NYM

Jack Flaherty: @LAD, CIN

Pablo Lopez: @TOR, @PIT

Decent Plays

Sonny Gray: PHI, @STL

Marcus Stroman: @ARI, @SD

Stephen Strasburg: @ATL, @PHI

Kyle Hendricks: SD, @SF

Merrill Kelly: NYM, @MIL

Wade Miley: PHI, @STL

Johnny Cueto: LAA, CHC

Vince Velasquez: @CIN, WAS

German Marquez: TEX, OAK

At Your Own Risk

Joe Ross: @ATL, @PHI

Drew Smyly: WAS, LAD

Tyler Anderson: @KC, MIA

Trevor Williams: SD, @SF

Wil Crowe: @KC, MIA

Streamer City

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

American League

Wednesday, June 2: Kris Bubic vs. PIT

If Bubic is still on your waiver wire, there is no better time to claim him. The lefty has allowed a total of two runs over his last four outings totaling 21.2 innings, and could face the lowly Pirates next week.

Friday, June 4: Alex Cobb vs. SEA

It’s been an inconsistent season for Cobb, but he’s coming off a very good start against Minnesota and has an enticing matchup against Seattle’s offense next week, which ranks dead last in OPS.

Saturday, June 5: Keegan Akin vs. CLE

Akin is a risky spot start, but the opportunity couldn’t be better against a Cleveland lineup sporting a .667 OPS against southpaws this season and now without Franmil Reyes. If nothing else, Akin has proven he can miss bats.

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National League

Tuesday, June 1: Adrian Houser vs. DET

Houser had his worst start of the year last week at Cincinnati, but the schedule is about to open up for him. The groundball pitcher matchups up against Detroit’s .651 OPS, and the Tigers will be without the DH in Milwaukee.

Thursday, June 3: Cody Poteet @ PIT

Poteet’s inability to miss bats could be a problem in the long term, but he’s been effective in his first go-around in the majors and faces the weak Pirates lineup (.643 OPS) next week.

Thursday, June 3: Brett Anderson vs. ARI

Anderson isn’t rostered by many due to his lack of strikeouts, but he has a respectable 4.34 ERA and gets a great matchup against a banged-up Diamondbacks lineup next week.

Total Games

American League

5: TOR

6: BAL, DET, LAA, OAK, TEX

7: BOS, CLE, HOU, KC, MIN, NYY, SEA, TB

8: CHW

National League

6: COL, LAD, MIA, MIL, PHI, SF

7: ARI, ATL, CHC, CIN, NYM, PIT, SD, STL, WAS

The Infirmary

Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at NBCSports Edge’s Injury Page.

Yordan Alvarez: Day-to-day (wrist)

Brian Anderson: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Tim Anderson: Day-to-day (thumb)

Luis Arraez: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Harrison Bader: Placed on IL (ribs)

Brandon Belt: Placed on IL (oblique)

Cavan Biggio: Placed on IL (neck)

Michael Brantley: Day-to-day (leg)

Jazz Chisholm: Day-to-day (ankle)

Garrett Cooper: Day-to-day (oblique)

David Dahl: Placed on IL (ribs)

Matt Duffy: Placed on IL (back)

Adam Eaton: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Kyle Gibson: Placed on IL (groin)

Kendall Graveman: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Trent Grisham: Placed on IL (foot)

Bryce Harper: Placed on IL (forearm)

Austin Hays: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Nico Hoerner: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Jeff Hoffman: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Jose Iglesias: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Anthony Kay: Placed on IL (blister)

Corey Kluber: Out at least two months (shoulder)

Michael Kopech: Status uncertain (hamstring)

Manny Machado: Day-to-day (shoulder)

Kenta Maeda: Placed on IL (groin)

Lance McCullers: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Miles Mikolas: Placed on IL (forearm)

Ryan Mountcastle: Day-to-day (hand)

Nick Neidert: Placed on IL (biceps)

Austin Nola: Placed on IL (knee)

Marcell Ozuna: Out at least six weeks (fingers)

Zach Plesac: Out indefinitely (thumb)

Wilson Ramos: Placed on IL (back)

Franmil Reyes: Out 5-7 weeks (oblique)

Anthony Rizzo: Day-to-day (back)

Victor Robles: Placed on IL (ankle)

Miguel Rojas: Out indefinitely (finger)

Amed Rosario: Day-to-day (hand)

Darin Ruf: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Nick Senzel: Out 4-6 weeks (knee)

Trevor Story: Day-to-day (arm)

Luke Voit: Placed on IL (oblique)

Taylor Widener: Played on IL (groin)