Jeff Niemann Replacements: Waiver Wire

It seems like every other day a member of the Tampa Bay Rays is being put on the disabled list. Kyle Farnsworth, Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings are the main players sidelined by injury, but they’re joined by the likes of Sam Fuld and backup catchers Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos. The latest to catch the injury bug is big right-handed starter Jeff Niemann.

Niemann was pulled from his start yesterday in Toronto after being hit in the foot by a ground ball from Adam Lind. X-Rays revealed a small break in his right fibula, sidelining him for at least a few months. He isn’t owned in many leagues (just 11% in Yahoo!) but had been pitching well. He’s only completed six innings one time but has a 3.20 FIP and 7.79 K/9 in his seven starts. This injury doesn’t affect the Rays as it would many teams, though, thanks to their incredible depth. It hasn’t been officially announced yet but it looks like Alex Cobb will be Niemann’s replacement. It’s still possible that the Rays give the vacant position to Wade Davis, who started the past two years for the team, but given that he’s become such an important part of the bullpen it seems unlikely.

The 25-year-old right hander started nine games for the Rays last season, posting a 3.42 ERA and 3.61 FIP. The strikeout rate was just 6.32 but has been over nine his last two years in the minors and is currently 8.92 at Triple-A Durham. Throw out his first major league start against the Angels where tipping pitches lead him to get tagged for four runs in 4.1 innings and his last start where he was clearly injured (he’d go on the DL with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) and labored through another 4.1 innings allowing five runs, and his ERA and FIP look even better. If he were on virtually any other team he’d have been in their rotation from the start. Much in the mold of James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson, Cobb features a very good changepiece that he threw 33 percent of the time last year. He’s an excellent, and cheap, replacement option in deep mixed and AL only leagues.

Another replacement option that’s owned in just 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues is Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen (3W, 2.43 ERA). He’s been excellent, posting a 3.21 FIP and keeping his BB/9 below 3.00. In his last start he threw 7.2 stellar innings against the Rangers, striking out five and walking one while allowing two runs. The signing of Chen wasn’t as celebrated as that of Yu Darvish, but he’s been able to stabilized the rotation for the first place Orioles and provide a little fantasy value to boot.

Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.

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My football hurts from reading this.