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The Tampa Bay Rays have placed starting pitcher Jeff Niemann on the 15-day disabled list because he has a fractured fibula in his right leg. The right-hander suffered the injury in his start versus the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night, when an Adam Lind comeback liner drilled him.
Multiple news reports have stated that the estimated recovery time is at least four to six weeks and possibly a couple of months or more. Manager Joe Maddon told the media that the club hasn't decided who will replace Niemann in the rotation, but the skipper said that he's happy with the job that Wade Davis has done in the bullpen, so it sounds like the young righty isn't an option.
Alex Cobb and Chris Archer are the two likeliest candidates to fill in. At Triple-A Durham, Cobb, 24, is 1-4 with a 4.14 ERA, a 9.58 K/9 and a 3.92 BB/9 in 41 1/3 frames. Archer, 23, is 3-4 with a 4.71 ERA, an 8.57 K/9 and a 6.00 BB/9 in 42 innings.
Cobb should have the edge here. He filled in at the MLB level last season, for Niemann in fact, and pitched well. He was 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA, a 6.32 K/9 and a 3.59 BB/9. He's pitched more than 100 innings at the Class AAA level and is more of a known quantity.
Archer had just a taste of Triple-A ball at the end of last season, and he's reached 55 innings total at the level. His control rate has been more problematic than Cobb's has, and Tampa Bay would probably like to see the hard-throwing right-hander improve that aspect of his game before they promote him.
Archer last pitched on Sunday; Cobb, on Monday. Either pitcher would be on schedule when Niemann's turn comes up again, presumably this Saturday against the Atlanta Braves. Although the Rays always have one eye on the future, they try to take advantage of opportunities in the present. Cobb is probably going to be their choice.
Cobb is a must-acquire in AL formats. His 2012 minor league numbers shouldn't scare off suitors, but his increased rate of walks issued from last season should be enough to make deep mixed leaguers hesitant. The strikeout stuff and the confidence he gained from a spot start and a subsequent eight-start stretch in the bigs give him more than a fighting chance, though.
In deep AL leagues, Archer can be tucked away, just in case. His mention suggests that he may get a call later this year, although it may not come before September, barring another injury. He'd be a highly risky play if he did come up.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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