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March 13, 2012 posted by Paul Greco

Transaction Analysis: Alex Cobb

Transaction Analysis: Alex Cobb
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Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays, SP

We lead off the transaction analysis this week with a riddle: What happens when you hit a fellow Major League player in the head with a mid-90s fastball during Spring Training? You get demoted to the
freakin’ Minors, duh.

There was little surprise on Sunday when Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect Alex Cobb was optioned to Minor League camp (and not because he sent Nolan Reimold to the hospital). And while the demotion
came quite early into the spring festivities, it’s one that makes sense.

With the talent and depth in the Rays’ pitching staff, there just aren’t enough innings to go around right now. Behind James Shields and David Price are three young studs in Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and
Wade Davis (who Patrick DiCaprio bet me would have a better 2011 season than Hellickson – and kids, that’s why you never take advice from bald guys). While Davis is the only one in the group who isn’t necessarily guaranteed innings this year, he’s still a promising pitcher who showed improvement down
the stretch and is ready for a 200-inning season.

So where does that leave Cobb? First remember that when he was called up for a second go-around in late July of last season, the Rays were rocking a six-man rotation for a little while (Cobb, Shields, Price, Hellickson, Davis and Jeff Niemann). So it’s not totally unthinkable that at some point, they could do that again. But assuming they don’t, it’s probably going to take a horrendous season from Davis or an injury to one of the others before Cobb gets his chance.

Sure, there are probably 25 Major League teams who could use him in the rotation right now, and it’s not that he isn’t ready. He proved last year that he’s capable of competing against big league hitters, striking out 37 in 52 2/3 innings with a 3.42 ERA. So it’s all just a matter of time.

Oh, and before he had season-ending surgery to repair a blood clot in his rib, he was on pace for about 160 innings, a steady, Rays-like increase from the year before. Is he ready to toss 180 innings this year? Maybe not. But at some point a Rays starting pitcher will get injured and Cobb will be the first to get a shot, so I can only imagine they’ll take it slow with him at Triple-A to keep his body ready when needed. My prediction? Eighty-five innings in the minors, 70 in the majors. In other words – probably worth a buck in an AL-only league draft or, better yet, a reserve pick, but he’ll have some value.

There hasn’t been a ton going on in the world of transactions, but the Oakland A’s officially put Scott Sizemore on the 60-day disabled list last week, and while it was originally thought of as an opportunity for Josh Donaldson (a catcher until two weeks ago), Eric Sogard is becoming an interesting option. Sogard is hitting .379 with two homers and three doubles in 29 Spring Training at-bats. He’s also walked four times to three strikeouts, stealing a pair of bases.

Meanwhile, Donaldson is hitting .290 with one double and one homer. He’s also struck out nine times. Sogard has the clear advantage defensively, since Donaldson has only played third base in the Dominican League prior to this. He’s a former first-round draft pick with the Cubs and has shown decent power in the minors, but he’s averaged just .252 over two Triple-A seasons. Sogard, a former second-round pick, doesn’t have the power but he’s averaged .298 with a .387 OBP two seasons at Triple-A, and he also steals 10-15 bags a year.

The only problem is that Sogard is a lefty and Donaldson is a righty, so there’s a very real chance this could turn into a platoon situation (yuck). Sogard is probably the one you want either way. It’d be tough to see the A’s handing third base over to a converted catcher who struggles to get on base, but we’ve seen crazier things.

Paul finished the 2011-2012 Fantasy Football season as the #1 Weekly Rankings & Projections winner of the 411Fantasy Expert Challenge. He also finished 2nd in the FantasyPros.com Expert Draft Accuracy Challenge in 2011. Top 10 Finisher in the FSWA Fantasy Football Draft Projections. Paul is also apart of baseballs elite as a member of Tout Wars. You can follow me on Twitter @PaulGreco
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