Jeff Niemann has a broken bone in his leg (fibula) and is out for at least a month and probably more. Who will step up?
Tampa Bay has 3 choices, Wade Davis, Chris Archer, and Alex Cobb. Let’s take a look at these options.
Wade Davis probably is the first choice as he has experience as a starter in the bigs. Currently he is being used as a reliever and that may hurt his chance to become a starter again as he is doing very good. This year, he has a 2.04 ERA with 16 Ks in 17 innings. However, last year Davis started 29 games and had a 4.45 ERA (1.38 WHIP) with 105 Ks in 184 innings – not that good. Although Davis has the experience, he certainly seems to be better in the pen.
Chris Archer is yet another good pitching prospect for the Rays. But, he is probably a few months, if not a season, away from being ready. In 2011, he started 27 games in the minors and had a 4.09 ERA, 130 Ks in 147 innings. This year, in 8 starts, he has a 4.71 ERA with 40 ks in 42 innings. He has great potential, but a 4+ ERA in the minors is not what you want to see coming to the majors.
Alex Cobb is the most intriguing option for the Rays. Not only has he shown good stuff in the minors, he actually started 9 games at the MLB level last year. In 12 starts in the minors last year, he had a 1.87 ERA with 70 Ks in 67 innings – great! In his 9 starts in the majors last year, he had a 3.42 ERA and 37 Ks in 52 innings – solid. In 8 starts this year in the minors, he has a 4.14 ERA and 44 Ks in 41 innings. Basically, Cobb pitched very good last year in the minors and the bigs, and is off to a slow start so far this year (although the Ks are very nice).
Nothing has been decided, but my opinion is to keep Davis in the pen, and give Cobb the job (that sounds bad). Regardless of who gets the 5th spot, they are probably limited to deeper fantasy leagues, maybe medium leagues. Even though the Rays are a good team, it’s such a tough division it’s hard to recommend any 5 in that division for shallow leagues.