With the All-Star game in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to step back and reassess where we are at. Each player below has been ranked by their expected performance for the second half of the season.
TIER 1: Cream of the Crop – This group is the cream of the crop. Ample opportunity for holds, high K-rates and low ERA’s make these guys a must own in any Holds league.
1. Dellin Betances (Yankees) 13 Holds – The fireman of all firemen. Betances leads all non-closers in WAR, while his K-rate (42.5%), WHIP (0.83) and FIP (1.69) are all absurd as well. If you needed one guy in all of baseball to come in and get you out of a bases loaded jam, it’s hard not to choose him.
2. Wade Davis (Royals) 12 Holds – Davis continues to post stellar numbers as the most consistent reliever out of a loaded Royals bullpen. The ratios are there to support the holds and Davis will remain a top commodity all year barring injury.
3. Tony Watson (Pirates) 20 Holds– People can get overlooked in Pittsburgh, but it is hard to miss the year Watson is having. Tied for second in the league in holds, Watson comes with a solid role and great numbers earning him the #3 ranking.
. Joe Smith (Angels) 22 Holds – Smith has been a force out of the Angels pen and leads the leads in holds with a 2.14 FIP to back it up. He should finish the year in the Top 5 for holds.
5. Pat Neshek (Astros) 20 Holds – Pat Neshek looks like a kid fooling around in his backyard, but his delivery sure as hell works. Boasting a fastball that barely creeps over 90 mph, Neshek thrives by keeping hitters of balance.
6. Carter Capps (Marlins) 7 Holds – The numbers for Capps are still mind boggling, legitimately close to striking out 50% of the batters (49.5%) he gets out. Only thing holding him back is the number of hold opportunities he will receive in Miami.
7. Sergio Romo (Giants) 20 Holds – The ERA paints an ugly story (5.19), though Romo’s FIP (2.23) details another. He is flirting with danger with a high WHIP (1.34), but a strong K rate (12.5) has helped minimize that. Either way, it has been enough for Romo to nail down 20 holds in the first half.
8. Ken Giles (Phillies) 11 Holds – Giles struggled to find his rhythm early in the season, but those who stuck with him are starting to get rewarded. The biggest issue with Giles for holds owners is not his performance, but rather if Jonathan Papelbon gets traded before the trade deadline. With Ruben Amaro as the GM, you might as well flip a coin.
TIER 2: Solid Performers – All excellent relievers, but whether it be their role or consistency, they aren’t quite on that elite level.
9. Kevin Siegrist (Cardinals) 15 holds – Siegrist’s accession in the Cardinals bullpen is quite impressive and the big difference is his ability to limit walks and increase his strikeouts (2.31 K/BB in ’14 vs 3.71 K/BB in ’15). I am not going to be the one to bet against a Cardinals pitcher and expect Siegrist to continue dominating.
10. Joaquin Benoit (Padres ) 11 Holds – Benoit has been a major disappointment so far this year when it comes to holds. A closer who was booted by the last minute arrival of Craig Kimbrel, Benoit was an early season favorite to post big numbers in the holds category. While his pitching has been impressive, the holds have just not come to fruition for him. Enter the second half with tempered expectations.
11. Kelvin Herrera (Royals) 13 Holds – You would think a guy who can break 100 mph and can limit his walks would be able to strikeout more than one batter per innings, but Herrera is putting up numbers that are only middle of the pack in this day and age. Nevertheless, his peripherals are stronger than last year, so don’t expect Herrera to drop off this list anytime soon.
12. Carson Smith (Mariners) 12 Holds – Smith is difficult to rank as Fernando Rodney (and Lloyd McClendon for that matter) is really his determining factor. Smith could be top five in holds in the second half, but he could also be the closer next week with another Rodney implosion. Those in Saves + Holds leagues should be all over Carson.
13. Jared Hughes (Pirates) 13 Holds – A strong start had Hughes ranked as high as 9th, but his hot streak has tapered off. Doing Hughes no favors is the incredible bullpen of the Pirates featuring Melancon, Watson and Caminero all vying for innings. That said, expect Hughes to stick around due to his ability to limit baserunners (1.14 WHIP) and home runs (0.23 HR/9).
14. Kevin Jepsen (Rays) 20 Holds – A member of the strange situation in Tampa that includes and Jake McGee, Jepsen’s success is the least believable of the three. His awful 1.72 K/BB rate and 4.25 FIP show that Jepsen is flirting with danger. Ride the wave while you can, but be ready to cut bait early if things start to go south.
15. Junichi Tazawa (Red Sox) 14 Holds – Tazawa found his niche is the Red Sox pen and has pitched very well of late. His K/BB rate (5.71) and WHIP (0.99) point to his success being no fluke. Get on board Tazawa for the second half of the year.
16. Justin Wilson (Yankees) 18 Holds – Justin Wilson has emerged as a shutdown man for the Yankees in the 7th before Miller and Betances, quietly recording 18 holds. Command has always been an issue for Wilson, but it has improved this year and he looks to be in a position to continue his success in the second half.
17. Zach Duke (White Sox) 15 Holds – While the holds are there for Duke, this overall numbers do not paint a pretty picture. This year, he’s posted a 2.00 K/BB vs a 4.35 K/BB in ’14 while a FIP of 4.91 doesn’t inspire much confidence either. Duke could be a ticking time bomb.
18. Arquímedes Caminero (Pirates) Caminero is the third hardest thrower in the league after Aroldis Chapman and Carter Capps, with a blazing average fastball velocity of 97.9 mph. He is still learning how to harness this power and results are starting to come around. There is definite top 10 potential here.
19. Jake McGee (Rays) 12 Holds – McGee hasn’t skipped a beat since coming off elbow surgery over the winter. The Rays fluid closer situation though limits McGee’s upside for holds. In the meantime though, reap the benefits of a bonafide shutdown reliever.
20. Pedro Strop (Cubs) 12 Holds – Pedro Strop always seems to be the ugly duckling that no one wants to talk about, yet he has been one of the more consistent middle relievers in baseball the last couple years. Expect Strop to continue to nail down holds for the Cubs in the second half at an above average clip.
21. Darren O’Day (Orioles) 7 Holds – O’Day is an extremely valuable piece is the O’s pen, but like some others on this list, his great numbers are not translating into holds. With the season halfway over, it is now up to O’Day to start producing in order to be higher in this list.
TIER 3: Rolling the Dice – There is some potential for holds from this group, however don’t bet the farm on them being among the league leaders.
22. J.J. Hoover (Reds) 7 Holds – The stat line on Hoover is a mixed bag: a 1.74 K/BB ratio leaves much to be desired, but a 0.94 WHIP is quite impressive. As a result, expect Hoover to be a decent add for the second half, but nothing more than that.
23. Will Smith (Brewers) 4 Holds – Smith is another funny case of a pitcher throwing lights out, but not being given the opportunity to pitch with a lead. Given the chance, Smith could fly up this list.
24. Drew Pomeranz (Athletics) 8 Holds – Pomeranz started the year as a sleeper SP, but the shine quickly wore off as he got pummeled and earned a demotion to the minors. Called back up as a reliever, Pomeranz has thrived in his new role and become one of Oakland’s more consistent relievers since June.
25. Daniel Hudson (Diamondbacks) 9 Holds – Facing tough odds, Daniel Hudson has worked his way back to relevance after two Tommy John surgeries. While no longer an intriguing SP option, Hudson has re-emerged as a quality reliever for the Diamondbacks. He is a interesting option going forward if his arm can stay healthy.