March 12, 2013
Alex Cobb's Rising Auction Value
Rays righty Alex Cobb has been collecting a bit of fantasy helium in recent weeks. He went for $9 and $11 in recent expert league auctions, and some sites are suggesting that compare him to veterans like Hiroki Kuroda. Moreover, three members of the ESPN fantasy analyst panel recently pegged Cobb as their fantasy starting-pitcher sleeper.
We also know that Cobb is adding a new pitch to his arsenal—which consisted of a sinking fastball, a curveball, and a split-changeup in 2012—and that is one of several reasons to be bullish about the 25-year-old’s near-term potential. His 18.6 percent strikeout last year was around the league average, but he paired it with a solid, 7.0 percent walk rate, outperforming the league average for starting pitchers in that department. He also had a 1.25 WHIP, and his pedestrian 4.03 ERA was inflated by a 68.5 percent strand rate, which is a notch below his career clip of 70.3 percent. Finally, from an approach standpoint, Cobb’s ground-ball style (58.8 percent ground-ball rate last year) fits well in front of the Rays’ strong infield defense, which features Evan Longoria at third, Yunel Escobar at short, a quadtoon at second, and James Loney at first.
However, despite all of those signs of promise, Cobb also comes with a few concerns that must be assuaged if fantasy owners are to justify an investment along the lines of those recently made in expert leagues.
Back in mid-December, I wrote an article about how Jeremy Hellickson pitched better with runners on base (out of the stretch) than he did out of the windup. Resident mechanics expert Doug Thorburn gave a good, plausible explanation for that phenomenon in the comments:
Just an observation, but part of the explanation for his success with runners on could be mechanical.
Cobb is Hellickson’s evil-twin brother, in that he struggles when there are runners on base. Cobb has faced 475 hitters with the bases empty in his career, and he has limited those hitters to a .236/.303/.356 triple-slash line, to go with 90 strikeouts and only 35 walks (.278 BABIP). Conversely, when there are runners already on base, opposing hitters’ triple-slash line jumps to .276/.337/.376, and his BABIP against increases to .316.