By David Ferris
Kris Medlen, SP, Braves: While there was nothing wrong with his relief work this year, Medlen has specifically taken off as a starter, giving us five dominant turns (4-0, five walks, 29 strikeouts, 0.83 ERA). No one can be expected to keep that sort of K/BB ratio, but Medlen doesn't sweat contact either, given that he induces a ground ball 52 percent of the time. Get in on this story now if you can, especially with the Padres (in Petco) waiting for next week.
John Axford, SP, Brewers: The Milwaukee bullpen has been a carnival ride all year, but Axford seems to have righted the ship of late: he's recorded two saves this week and regained the endorsement of manager Ron Roenicke. And there's nothing special chasing Axford: Jim Henderson is a career minor leaguer with no pedigree, and Francisco Rodriguez hasn't fooled in 2012. By default, it looks like the club will sink or swim with Axford the rest of the way. How badly did you say you needed saves?
Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals: No one expected immediate miracles when Garcia returned to action last week - he missed a couple of months with a shoulder problem - but a 10-strikeout performance against Pittsburgh immediately pushes Garcia back into our plans. The NL Central is a nifty place for a pitcher, where you see a bunch of exploitable opponents (Houston, Chicago, even Milwaukee), and the Cardinals also offer the deepest lineup in the Junior Circuit. Look for a strong finishing kick over the next six weeks.
Jeremy Guthrie, SP, Royals: The thin air of Colorado didn't permanently break his spirit - Guthrie has been sharp in six AL turns (3.23 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, K/BB ratio just under four). The Royals aren't giving him much help with offense or bullpen, but you take what you can get. Guthrie posted a sneaky 3.83 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with the Orioles back in 2010, and the AL Central isn't nearly as demanding. There's an underrated arm here.
C.J. Wilson, SP, Angels: It's been a mess for most of the big-name LA pitchers, with Wilson a notable crash over the last two months. He hasn't won a game since late June, posting a 6.09 ERA over 11 starts. The strikeout clip is still good for Wilson, but when you allow 31 walks and nine homers over 65 innings, you're not going to be successful. Batters are also squaring up Wilson with little trouble, producing a line drive 21 percent of the time. In mixed leagues, you need to do better. This game is about the numbers, not the names.
Daniel Straily, SP, Athletics: He didn't look out of place during his three-game trial in Oakland (3.12 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 12 strikeouts, four walks), and he figures to have a rotation spot for good now that Bartolo Colon has been suspended. Straily won't come back to the majors for one more turn - he needs to spend 10 days in the minors unless an injury creates an opening - but he's mixed-league worthy for September, especially in Oakland's roomy home park.
Casey Janssen, RP, Blue Jays: His ordinary save total (just 16 handshakes) is tied to how Toronto's season has gone - the Jays are a losing team to begin with, but a lot of their victories have been lopsided ones. Janssen's 2.22 ERA and 0.80 WHIP get your attention, and he validates the love with his strikeout/walk rate (50 punchouts, just eight free passes). As volatile as the closer market can be, we expect Janssen to be a safe stopper into 2013.