Why he’ll succeed in 2020: While not the biggest name on the market thanks to his age (he’ll turn 40 in March) and recent injury history (which we’ll get to in a minute), Hill has been one of the best starters in all of baseball when healthy. Since becoming a full-time starter during the 2015 season, Hill has gone 39-19 on the mound with a 3.00 ERA — numbers that Twins fans would have killed for from a starting pitching acquisition last season.
At the source of this is Hill’s ability to win with location and a deadly curveball. Baseball Savant is a big fan of HIll’s recording him in elite company in fastball spin (91st percentile), curveball spin (95th), exit velocity (98th) despite having a fastball that ranks in the 15th percentile in terms of velocity.
All of these are things that can translate under an analytics-driven front office like the Twins and if the Twins can get him healthy by his reported timetable of June, they could have a steal on their hands even if he reaches the full $12.5 million on his deal after incentives.
Why that’s not a given: Notice how I said: “if he’s healthy.” This has been a big issue with Hill since becoming a starter. While the numbers have been great, the assurance that he’ll be on the mound to make his next start has been a roller coaster ride.
In each of the past three seasons, Hill has thrown a maximum of 135 2/3 innings (2017) and after several injuries last season, threw 58 2/3 in 13 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers. With everything stacking up, the left-hander underwent elbow revision surgery this offseason, which is an alternative to Tommy John surgery.
Waiting on Hill is certainly a risk for the Twins, who may be rolling with a couple of depth players until the rotation gets sorted out. But with his effectiveness when he’s on the mound, he should have a role even if the Twins need to limit his innings by using him out of the bullpen late in the season.