One man exits, two, or three, men enter. It is good to be the Rays.
Softening the bit of misfortune of having starter Jeff Niemann break his leg on a comebacker, the Rays will be able to tap into an embarrassment of riches as potential replacements: current major league reliever Wade Davis and a pair of top pitching prospects in Chris Archer and Alex Cobb. On many other teams, all three would be occupying rotation spots in the majors. For the Rays, they are merely emergency options.
All are talented, and whomever is picked to start in Niemann's place (read: Cobb, for the reasons stated below) will have value in all fantasy leagues. So, let's weigh the candidates, starting first with the Triple-A prospects Archer and Cobb.
"Both have great arms," manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com. "Different pitchers in a sense. Archer [has] a little bit more dynamic arm, little bit more velocity. Cobb is a little bit like a [Jeremy] Hellickson type -- fastball, change-up kind of guy. Both good makeup.
"Cobb has done it before, did a great job for us last year. Both young with good makeups. We see both of them as being part of our future. They're both very interesting, they are both going to be very good major league pitchers."
Cobb might not be the prospect Archer is, but he has the experience thing going for him. It is likely the Rays rely on what they know, over the unknown in Archer. In nine starts last season for the Rays, Cobb went 3-2 with a respectable 3.45 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, striking 37 in 52 2/3 innings.
Cobb, like Davis, was a candidate to make the rotation out of spring training but a numbers game sent him to Triple A to open the season. Cobb hasn't quite been as dominant there as he was a year ago, when he went 5-1 with a 1.87 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings (just 16 walks). This year, through eight starts, Cobb is just 1-4 with a 4.14 ERA and 18 walks in 41 1/3 innings. He does have 44 strikeouts, though.
If you throw out a few bad starts, Cobb's numbers would look a lot better. They are still better than Archer's right now.
Archer, 23, is the power arm that tends to excite fantasy owners more. It hasn't translated into as many strikeouts as Cobb (Archer has just 40 in 42 innings), and Archer has a bigger issue with walks (a whopping 28 so far this season). Long term, because of his high velocity stuff, Archer is the better prospect than Cobb, but he isn't the better pitcher
Cobb, 24, is good enough to start for the Rays and affect all fantasy leagues immediately. At just 5 percent ownership in CBSSports.com's leagues, he is a huge bargain who will start for a top contender. Pick him up first, unless you play in a keeper league and want the potential of Archer right now.
The Rays' best option to replace Niemann for the six weeks, however, (and perhaps through the All-Star break) is Davis. But Davis has worked himself into the Pitch-22 situation -- the Catch-22 for pitchers -- good enough to start, but too valuable in relief. And Davis isn't stretched out to go five-plus innings every fifth day like Cobb and Archer are.
The Rays are weighing their options to fill the hole in the rotation, but they sure sound like they want to eliminate Davis as one.
"I want to talk to Wade Davis about it because I really like what he's doing in the bullpen right now," Maddon told MLB.com. "We will probably not go in that direction. It's probably going to come from the minor league area."
Davis, who won 12 games in 2010 and 11 in '11, starting a total of 64 games already for the Rays, has taken well to his relief role. He has 16 strikeouts to just six walks, with a 2.06 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 17 2/3 innings.
"Part of it is I really like where he's at in the bullpen,'' Maddon told the
"He comes out there with the real slow pulse working. He's understanding what's going on. He gets a righty and a lefty out. He knows how to control the running game. He's a good fielder. He does a lot of things well. Plus, you're starting to see the 93-94(-mph fastball) again.''
Despite the praise, Davis will be relegated to a minimal role and has little fantasy value. His quality and importance to the Rays doesn't match up to that in fantasy.
Cobb is the pickup right now, Archer is the pickup later and Davis might become fantasy viable again if he can work his way into being an option to close down the road.
It's good to have options
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