While Matt Moore and Chris Archer continue to climb the minor league ladder, the Durham combination of Alex Torres and Alex Cobb may be able to help the big league club this season. Here’s a look at what each offers.
Torres is a 23-year-old left-hander who came to the Rays in the Scott Kazmir trade. He has had command issues in the minors, walking 4.9 batters per nine innings over his minor league career. A career strikeout rate of one batter per inning pitched has made the free passes tolerable and led to a respectable 1.89 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
According to DriveLineBaseball, this would be equivalent to a 7.0 BB/9 and an 8.0 K/9 in the major leagues –a 1.14 K/BB ratio– that is similar to Esmerling Vasquez’s 2010 season with the Diamondbacks. It does appear that Torres is decreasing his amount of walks, though, as in 2010, his Major League Equivalent (MLE) BB/9 dropped to a career low 5.79. If Torres continues to hone his control, he could show up in the major leagues later this year. In Torres’ first start for the Bulls this season, he pitched five innings, gave up two hits, walked one, and struck out nine. Here is a complete look at Torres’ MLE:
Cobb is a 23-year-old righty drafted by the Rays in 2006. While not as highly touted as some of the other prospects in the Rays system, Cobb would be in the top 10 of many other organizations. He has a high-80s to low-90s fastball and relies on command of his sinker, splitter, and curveball more than pure “stuff”. John Sickels projects Cobb to be a solid number three to four starter and lists him as a Rays sleeper pitching prospects. Cobb’s first start this season was very similar to Torres’s as he pitched five innings, gave up three hits, two walks, and struck out seven batters.
How Would They Be Used in 2011?
If the two Alexs do indeed make it to St. Petersburg later this year, they will likely be used as middle relievers or spot starters. This is consistent with the usage of David Price and Jeff Niemann in 2008, Wade Davis in 2009, and Jeremy Hellickson and Jake McGee in 2010. As illustrated by this chart:
|Davis||2009||Sep 6||6||6||36 1/3||0.87|
|Hellickson||2010||Aug 2||10||4||36 1/3||0.92|
In 2008, Price appeared in five games. His lone start came against the lowly Orioles, who finished 68-93 that year. Only one of Price’s appearances came in a high-leverage reliever role–as he faced the Twins with runners on second and third base, one out, and the Rays up by three; he finished the inning without allowing a run.
Niemann was called up early in the 2008 season for two starts and then sent back to Triple-A until September. Once Niemann returned, he pitched exclusively in relief and only one of his appearances was high leverage, as he came into a tie game in the 6th inning against the Tigers and pitched three innings while giving up one run.
Davis debuted in early September for the 2009 Rays and started all six games he appeared in. The 2009 season was different from 2008 and 2010 as the Rays were already 14.5 games behind the Yankees and held a 1.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, per CoolStandings.
In 2010, Hellickson was called up in August before rosters expanded. He made four starts against the Twins, Tigers, Orioles and Athletics in August, but was relegated to the bullpen in September and October. Hellickson was also given one high leverage opportunity, which came against the Yankees: with the Rays ahead by one, a runner on, no outs, and Mark Teixeira at the plate. Hellickson gave up a run and the Yankees eventually won.
McGee was used slightly differently in 2010 because he is seen by the organization as a relief pitcher. He appeared in eight games and completed only five innings. None of McGee’s appearances were particularly important and he was used mostly to attack left-handed hitters.
If this pattern is applied to Torres and Cobb this season, they will most likely be called up to the Rays after September 1st when the rosters are expanded. They will pitch in five-to-10 games and will get around 15 innings of work. Depending on the Rays evaluations of their long-term status and the team’s predicament, they could find themselves in the rotation too, similar to what the Rays did in 2006 when they shut down James Shields and Scott Kazmir early and used Brian Stokes, J.P. Howell, Jason Hammel, Jae Seo, and Tim Corcoran in the rotation over the final few weeks.