Jeff Niemann is likely to miss most of the rest of 2012 after breaking his fibula last week. While that's disappointing for his fantasy owners, for the Rays, it's simply a chance to dip into their extensive pitching depth. Before the season began, when it was clear Matt Moore was going to end up in the rotation, I took a look at the idea that the Rays had another entire rotation they weren't even using thanks to the glut of young pitching at Durham. The Rays might not have the same farm system they had even a few years ago, but they certainly don't lack for arms at the upper level.
The most major-league ready of the group, the one who pitched last year when the Rays had injury-related holes in the rotation, was Alex Cobb. Cobb got his first start of the 2012 season on Saturday, facing the Braves in Tampa Bay's first interleague series of the year. Following that appearance, his major-league time looks like so:
You would like more strikeouts than he's been getting, and given control is his thing, you'd expect fewer walks the more frames he gets to throw in the bigs. But overall, he looks like a solid contributor for the back-end of your fantasy rotation, assuming you're still in need of W that won't hurt your stats, or just need more innings, strikeouts, whatever.
His change-up has been his only pitch inducing swings-and-misses for the Rays, but he's picked up plenty of ground outs with his other stuff in those 59-plus frames. More than one-quarter of all of his opponents have grounded out, which is part the defense behind him, and part his multi-fastball approach.
While his MLB numbers haven't blown anyone away yet, his Triple-A time has made him intriguing. Remember, he's just 24:
|AAA (2 seasons)||AAA||2.73||20||108.2||450||1.279||8.7||0.4||2.8||9.4||3.35|
Triple-A isn't the majors, so don't take this to mean I assume he's going to start striking out over a batter per inning. But there's likely more to look forward to, the more reps he gets in against the world's most advanced hitters. In the meantime, he has Tampa Bay's vaunted defense to assist him, in much the same way Jeremy Hellickson does.
That makes him worth a stash, if not starting, especially as, given he's a young Rays' hurler, his name is sure to be well-known in due time. He's owned in just 14 percent of CBS leagues, and less than one percent of ESPN leagues. Grab him now, before anyone realizes it's a potentially good move.