By David Ferris
Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants: The team had no choice but to demote Santiago Casilla from the closer role (see below), and it looks like Affeldt is going to be the head of the new committee, no matter that he's a left-handed reliever. Affeldt has a solid 2.56 ERA and 1.14 WHIP to start things off; he's capable of retiring righties and lefties; and he's more durable than righty Sergio Romo. Figure on Affeldt getting the majority of San Francisco handshakes going forward, with Romo the second option.
Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Orioles: He wasn't the buzzy overseas signing of the year, but Chen has handled the AL East very well as a rookie (3.46 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 109 strikeouts in 135.1 innings) and he's been especially sharp since the All-Star Break. A 12-strikeout game against Oakland grabs your attention, and he backed that up with seven scoreless frames at Tampa. Congrats, Baltimore, you found a No. 2 starter here.
Jim Henderson, RP, Brewers: He's closed out the last two Milwaukee wins, and he's been crisp in seven big league innings this far (1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K). Possession of the closing baton is 90 percent of the battle in our numbers racket, and it's telling that Henderson received Wednesday's assignment after John Axford worked the eighth inning. Henderson's story is out of nowhere, sure - he's a 29-year-old journeyman who was actually drafted by the Expos back in 2003 - but Axford's story was just as miraculous and crazy.
Zack Greinke SP, Angels: He's posted a 5.68 ERA and 1.63 WHIP over his first three Anaheim turns, and he's hasn't faced an elite offense yet. It's an extreme set of results but it illustrates the broader point: there aren't many soft landings in the hitter-friendly AL, where the bunt is all but abolished and every team gets an extra piece of daily lumber in the lineup. Greinke's magical 2009 season sticks out like a sore thumb, but otherwise this is someone who's never had an ERA under 3.44 or a WHIP under 1.20. GM's better be careful with the checkbook this winter; Greinke is routinely talked about like he's an ace, but he's really a No. 2 type of arm.
Mike Fiers, SP, Brewers: He's been crazy-lucky with the homers (3.3 HRFB rate), but when you strike out a batter per inning and walk less than two men per nine frames, you're going to be successful. We all know Fiers won't keep this 1.80 ERA for the balance of the year, but he should be in the 3.00-3.50 range for the final third of the season, with a good WHIP, and that will play in any format. It's surprising Fiers didn't get a shot before this year, because his minor-league profile was excellent from 2009-2011.
Bartolo Colon, SP, Athletics: Several of the Oakland starters have a home-park bias, but Colon has actually done his best work on the road (2.81 ERA, five wins in nine starts). To be fair, it might be partially fluke-driven - his WHIP is considerably lower at home. But at the end of the day there's a lot to like about Colon, even at age 39: he plays on a surprising contender, his outfield is terrific defensively, and he's still working quickly, throwing strikes, playing baseball as it should be. Score one for science.
Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants: He has no one to blame but himself for the closer demotion. He's blown five saves over his last 17 appearances, along with eight walks and a 7.82 ERA. The Giants have designs on the playoffs and they have better relievers in house; they don't need this mischief. Cut Casilla immediately in all mixed-league formats.