The Hold Up 3/25: Ranking the Top 90 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

Rick Graham ranks baseball's top setup men for the 2021 season

We are just a week away from opening day and still dealing with a ton of questions as far as how some bullpens will shake out. It’s hard to gauge what roles relievers will have coming out of spring training, as we almost never see normal bullpen usage in March. As usual, with it being difficult to peg certain roles for these guys, it also insinuates the lack of job security they will have if they indeed start in high-leverage roles. This list will likely look a lot different a month from now, but for your upcoming drafts, here’s my best attempt for holds values at this point in time.

 

Notes

  • Tier 1 is the elite crop of setup pitchers in the league. The high ceiling, high floor group.
  • Drew Pomeranz seems to be on track to begin the year in the Padres bullpen after dealing with some forearm inflammation the past few weeks. He’ll be worth monitoring this Friday as he’s scheduled to pitch in the team’s game against the Mariners. If he comes out of that appearance healthy, expect him open the year in a high leverage role, whether it be as closer or the top setup option.
  • Tanner Rainey made his spring debut this week, and while it didn’t go great, there’s still enough time to get up to full speed by opening day. He was still around 93-94 with his fastball last night which is a concern, so his next outing or two will be crucial to determining where he starts the season.

 

  • Tier 2 is the rest of the steady setup options in the league, but are either unproven or have a limited ceiling.
  • Jordan Hicks, Chris Martin, Lucas Sims, Alex Colome, Rafael Dolis, and Archie Bradley are all in competitions to win their team’s respective closer jobs and could be off this list by this time next week. Regardless of their official roles, they will all factor into high-leverage situations and should be a source of saves or holds.
  • This ranking might be aggressive, but I love the situation Enoli Paredes is in as the Astros top setup man. The numbers don’t do his stuff justice and once he is able to corral said stuff, Paredes should justify a roster spot in all formats that count holds.

 

  • Tier 3 is the volatile or unknown setup group. Plenty of upside in this tier, with plenty of question marks.
  • While it hasn’t been a great spring, I suppose it is encouraging that Josh Staumont has only walked one batter over 4 spring innings. He has as good of stuff as almost anyone on this list, but unless he takes a Tanner Rainey-like step forward with his BB%, the free passes will hold him back from reaching his potential.
  • What exactly should we expect from Andrew Miller this season? Miller’s fastball velocity has failed to break 90 MPH over his last three spring training games, so he will have to live off that excellent slider of his but we already knew that. I think he can survive with a sub 90 MPH fastball, but don’t expect him to be creeping too far up this list.

 

  • Tier 4 has plenty of upside, but what roles will these guys have?
  • Out of the SP’s turned RP’s group, I like Tejay Antone and Alex Reyes the most to provide value in holds leagues. They may not rack up a ton of holds, but getting to 100 innings should help managers with plenty of K’s. They also have the best chance to move into a closing role at some point, unlike the other SP/RP’s.
  • Joely Rodriguez will miss the start of the season, but depending on the state of the Rangers bullpen upon his return, could be thrust immediately into the closer role from the start. Assuming he has no setbacks with his ankle, expect Rodriguez back within two weeks of opening day.

 

  • Tier 5 has some intrigue, with a lot of names in this tier being highly ranked in the past.
  • Tony Gonsolin, Michael Kopech, and Dustin May are the rest of the known SP’s turned RP’s with upside, but again, what exactly will their roles be we don’t know yet. Gonsolin and May will get some starts at some point this season, but until then will likely fit into a long-relief role. For Kopech, it sounds like he will be used in 3 inning spurts, likely early in games after a starter (probably Carlos Rodon or Dylan Cease) has been pulled.
  • Reyes Moronta, working his way back from shoulder surgery in 2019, has yet to fully regain his pre-torn labrum form. That shouldn’t be too big of a surprise as it’s a major surgery that usually takes closer to two years to be back to 100% again. His fastball has been around 93-94 MPH this spring, while he was sitting around 97 MPH back in 2018-19.

 

  • Tier 6 is the best of the rest.
  • Keynan Middleton has really struggled since returning from Tommy John surgery, and those struggles have spilled over to spring training as well. Still, the Mariners are planning to use him in high-leverage situations, so it at least puts him on the fantasy radar. His last 4 outings have been better, although his velocity is still a bit down.
  • If I’m throwing darts on the Rangers bullpen situation, I think Josh Sborz is worth the first look. He has limited MLB experience, but his minor league numbers are really good (31.4% K rate over past two MiL seasons) and his fastball/slider combo pass the “future closer” eye test.

 

Rank Pitcher Change
1Devin WilliamsT1-
2James Karinchak+6
3Jake Diekman+3
4Trevor May+35
5Diego Castillo-1
6Chad Green+20
7Tyler Duffey-4
8Drew Pomeranz-6
9Tanner Rainey+UR
10Pete Fairbanks
T2
+UR
11Aaron Bummer+UR
12Blake Treinen-2
13Scott Barlow+11
14Jordan Hicks+UR
15Chris Martin-4
16Lucas Sims+29
17Mike Mayers+UR
18Alex Colome+UR
19Rafael Dolis+UR
20Evan Marshall+UR
21Archie Bradley-12
22Enoli Paredes+47
23Josh Staumont
T3
+6
24Victor Gonzalez+UR
25Scott Oberg+UR
26Adam Ottavino+18
27Yimi Garcia+7
28Stefan Crichton+UR
29Wander Suero+2
30Garrett Crochet+UR
31Codi Heuer+1
32Felix Pena-9
33Miguel Castro+13
34Emmanuel Clase+UR
35Ryan Brasier-19
36Andrew Miller-19
37Tejay Antone
T4
+UR
38Austin Adams+UR
39Alex Reyes+15
40Robert Stephenson+UR
41Phil Maton+22
42Jorge Alcala+UR
43J.B. Wendelken+37
44A.J. Minter+27
45Cody Stashak+UR
46Joely Rodriguez+UR
47Brent Suter+35
48Tyler Rogers+4
49Matt Wisler+UR
50Brusdar Graterol+9
51Pierce Johnson+34
52Mychal Givens-1
53Andrew Chafin+UR
54Connor Brogdon
T5
+UR
55Tony Gonsolin+UR
56Michael Kopech+UR
57Jose Alvarado+UR
58Jason Adam+UR
59Mark Melancon+UR
60Kevin Ginkel+UR
61Dustin May+UR
62Will Harris-34
63Reyes Moronta+UR
64Daniel Hudson+UR
65Jesse Hahn-46
66Lou Trivino+UR
67Darren O’Day+UR
68Keone Kela+UR
69Justin Wilson-47
70Pedro Baez-33
71Corey Knebel+UR
72Sean Doolittle
T6
+UR
73Sergio Romo-68
74Ty Buttrey+1
75Keynan Middleton+UR
76Hansel Robles+UR
77Ryan Tepera+7
78Darwinzon Hernandez+UR
79Chasen Shreve+11
80Tyler Matzek-12
81Kyle Zimmer+UR
82Dylan Floro+UR
83Rowan Wick+UR
84Matt Foster-18
85Tony Watson+UR
86Craig Stammen-8
87James Hoyt+2
88Josh Sborz+UR
89Matt Bush+UR
90Joe Jimenez+UR

 

Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Rick Graham

Rick resides in the Boston area and has experience as a player and coach at the collegiate level. He has been covering relievers for Pitcher List since 2017.

  • Avatar dubjay says:

    Does this mean that you think that Rogers(MIN), Wittgren, Neris and Romano have the closer gig for now?

  • Avatar Jack says:

    How close is Sims to Treinin? Sims has the benefit of sitting in my SP slot, so i can have 7 relievers going at once

  • Avatar J says:

    No E. Pagan sighting on this list. Are you thrusting him into the closer role?

    • Rick Graham Rick Graham says:

      Yea with Pomeranz dealing with an injury and Melancon’s 6 H and 3/5 K/BB ratio this spring, Pagan seems like the best bet for saves at the moment

  • Avatar Rob says:

    Anyone know what good target number is for saves + holds in a 15 team or 20 team league? Any idea where to find some good info on that?

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