The Hold Up 7/8: Ranking the Top 90 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

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

While this week is somewhat of a second-half holds rankings reset that highlights a lot of new names towards the top of the list, I think it’s’ worth appreciating the likes of Blake Treinen, who has been a steady top ten option all year long. While it’s fun chasing the high upside options, it’s always nice having that sturdy, dependable holds option in someone like Treinen, basically the Toyota Camry of relievers. Treinen’s plus stuff doesn’t always result in a ton of strikeouts, but it does result in getting a ton of weak contact as once again Treinen is near the top of the leaderboard for Barrel%, HardHit%, and Average Exit Velocity. Combine that with being the top setup man on one of the best teams in baseball and you got yourself a set it and forget reliever in all holds leagues.




  • It appears as if the Marlins are grooming Anthony Bender to take over the closer role eventually, as the rookie has received two save chances this week. It’s the right move as Bender has been the best member of that bullpen for a while now, and possesses prototypical closer stuff. I compared him to Ken Giles a little while back, but I’m not quite sure his stuff has the same swing and miss upside. For now, Bender is squarely in a high leverage role in Miami and is worth a look regardless of what happens with Yimi García.
  • While he may not be racking up holds or wins right now, Collin McHugh has been quite possibly the most dominant reliever in all of baseball since the beginning of May. Over the past two-plus months, McHugh has allowed just 14 hits, one run and has a ridiculous 48/6 K/BB rate over 30.1 innings of work. McHugh has been able to get whiffs with all four of his pitches, with whiff rates over 32% for his fastball, cutter, slider, and curveball. That’s pretty incredible. His .224 xwOBA and 5.1% BB rate aren’t too shabby either. It all adds up to an elite reliever, despite averaging less than 91 MPH with his fastball.


  • Between Kendall Graveman, Drew Steckenrider, J.T. Chargois, and Paul Sewald the Mariners have become the reliever whisperer(’s?) this season for early 30’s journeymen pitchers. While I had all of them grouped together towards the back of the list before, it looks like Sewald is separating himself from the pack (exception being Graveman) and becoming the Mariners’ top setup option. He’s not overpowering, but his fastball and slider are both producing whiffs over 30% of the time. I can’t confidently say Sewald will finish the year as a top 20 holds option, but he’s worth taking a shot on for now and letting it ride for however long this lasts.
  • A lot of the same can be said for Josh Taylor, who is back to his 2019 self after being one of the worst pitchers in baseball last season. I was hesitant to move Taylor up the list quickly because of last year and this April, but since May he has really turned things around, having not allowed a run now over his last 21.1 innings. His slider is working again, and he brought back his wrinkle curveball to help get right-handed hitters out. Like with Sewald, ride Taylor while things are going well but if it starts to take a turn for the worst, don’t hesitate to jump ship.


  • In what’s become an annual tradition, I feel like I was once again sleeping on Richard Bleier, as he’s always pitched for bad teams, and has had no strikeout upside whatsoever in the past. While he hasn’t turned into a strikeout machine, he currently has a 21.6% K rate, which is by far a career-best for him and made even better by his paltry 1.7% walk rate. Add in eleven holds for the season, which ranks in the top 20 amongst relievers, and you have yourself a pretty sturdy back-end reliever option in holds leagues.
  • The Astros are committed to Cristian Javier being a reliever this season, so the best team in the AL better start using him in high leverage situations given the alternatives in that bullpen. Walks are still an issue, but Javier should probably have more than three holds to his name as he hasn’t started a game since May 23rd. He’s also going to want to bump up his slider usage a bit now that he’s in the bullpen, as it should probably be closer to a 50/40 split with his fastball leading the way.


  • I know it’s been a difficult season for Codi Heuer and he’s bounced around this list quite a bit, but the team continues to trust him in high leverage spots, so that definitely counts for something. He “ranks” third amongst all qualified relievers with a .402 BABIP, a number that has to eventually come down, right? He doesn’t walk anyone (4.2% BB rate) and his sinker has been hammered all year as he tends to leave it in the middle of the plate. Perhaps try working the edges/corners more and even if the walk rate goes up, it could be worth it.
  • As we continue to speculate saves in Cincinnati, Art Warren looks like a late addition to the mix as the rookie reliever has been fantastic in his first 13.2 innings this year. Warren has been throwing his slider about 60% of the time and is getting Whiffs at a rate of 46.7%. Even without the sticky stuff, the Reds remain Spincinnati.

EDIT: Added in Ryan Tepera and Zack Britton as it appears they will return this weekend

Rank Pitcher Change
1Giovanny GallegosT1-
2Chad Green+1
3Blake Treinen+1
4Seth Lugo+1
5Emmanuel Clase
6Devin Williams+2
7Drew Pomeranz-1
8Jake Diekman+1
9Andrew Chafin+2
10Ryan Tepera+UR
11Michael Kopech+1
12Jimmy Nelson+5
13Adam Ottavino+1
14Anthony Bender+21
15Collin McHugh+11
16Trevor May-1
17J.P. Feyereisen-7
18Daniel Hudson+UR
19Austin Adams
20Jonathan Loáisiga-1
21Tyler Rogers+1
22Garrett Whitlock+1
23Chris Martin+4
24Aaron Loup+1
25Emilio Pagán-4
26Paul Sewald+51
27Josh Taylor+38
28Zack Britton+UR
29Tanner Scott-5
30Gregory Soto-10
31José Alvarado-13
32Richard Bleier+UR
33Pete Fairbanks
34Ryne Stanek-1
35Mike Mayers-3
36Brad Boxberger-5
37Dylan Floro-7
38Jeffrey Springs+2
39Pierce Johnson+3
40Kyle Zimmer+3
41Joely Rodríguez+7
42Cristian Javier+8
43Craig Stammen+4
44Yusmeiro Petit-
45Garrett Crochet-9
46Matt Wisler+5
47David Bednar+7
48Jake Cousins+4
49Connor Brogdon+7
50Codi Heuer+20
51Art Warren+UR
52Andrew Kittredge+6
53Tyler Duffey
54Paul Fry-16
55Brad Brach+16
56Tim Mayza+16
57Sam Howard+21
58Josh Staumont-19
59A.J. Minter-14
60Miguel Castro-26
61Hansel Robles-20
62Hector Neris-25
63Brooks Raley-1
64Nick Sandlin+5
65Joe Kelly+19
66Josh Sborz-20
67Rex Brothers+1
68Bryan Shaw+5
69Drew Steckenrider+7
70Tim Hill-9
71Hirokazu Sawamura+3
72JT Chargois+3
73Génesis Cabrera
74Austin Voth+14
75Jake Brentz-12
76Brent Suter-17
77Steve Cishek+10
78Caleb Thielbar-14
79Wander Suero-26
80J.B. Wendelken-25
81Darwinzon Hernandez-15
82Tyler Matzek-22
83Archie Bradley+UR
84Amir Garrett+UR
85Brett Martin-6
86Tony Watson-4
87Mychal Givens+UR
88Sean Doolittle-3
89Dominic Leone+1
90Tyler Wells+UR
91Phil Maton+UR
92Jorge Alcala+UR
93Josh Osich+UR
94Jarlín García+UR
95Keynan Middleton+UR
96Ryan Burr+UR
97Anthony Bass+UR
98Noé Ramirez+UR
99Phil Bickford+UR
100Andrew Miller+UR


Photo by David Dennis/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.

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