What’s poppin’, Razzpimples?

By popular demand, I’ve got some holds rankings for you folks. I didn’t get around to doing this last season, so it’s bonus content szn!!

I’m only doing a Top 20, however. The setup landscape is kinda bonkers, shifting so much throughout the course of a 162-game season that it gets practically impossible to predict beyond the top dogs.

Also, I’m treating this as holds being a separate category. It’s simpler that way. I’m really just not about to sit and rank every reliever in baseball for saves+holds leagues. You can take my closer rankings from last week and mix and mingle the guys you see below to form your own valuations.

Remember to bookmark that Razzball Bullpen Chart, y’all! I update it obsessively.

Also, if you’re a sub (you should be a sub…it’s great value), you get access to RP Projections and the super badass Relievonator Game Log tool (which obviously isn’t handy until games start), in addition to all the other awesome tools we have to offer. Hittertron and Streamonator, etc.

Let’s do it to it.

1. Bryan Abreu

2. Jason Adam

3. Erik Swanson

4. Chris Martin

5. Brusdar Graterol

6. Yennier Cano

7. Hector Neris

8. A.J. Minter

9. Aroldis Chapman

10. Andrew Nardi

11. Lucas Sims

12. Brooks Raley

13. Joel Payamps

14. Colin Poche

15. Jason Foley

16. Ryan Pressly

17. Robert Stephenson

18. Josh Sborz

19. Giovanny Gallegos

20. Hunter Harvey

Tier 1

First tier is Abreu by himself. He’s every bit as good as the household names you see on top of everyone else’s closer rankings. Man hit 100 K last year, and combining his ERA and WHIP adds up to a mere 2.79. Two straight seasons of a sub-2.00 ERA and ridiculous strikeouts for a reliever. Pressly might edge him out in holds totals if he gets majority 8th-inning looks, but the overall quality from Abreu can’t be beat. He’s on an island.

Tier 2

Second tier goes from Adam to Graterol. Elite setup men in very good situations.

I like Adam most since he has really good strikeout stuff. He’s a staple in that pen and should be leaned on heavily. Overall, he’s one of the very best in the game in my book.

Swanson is just hella dependable. If he’s pitching, it’s gonna be high quality. Could be the best in this tier, really. Slight downgrade from Adam in the K department but has all the makings for elite ratios and gobs of holds.

Martin has evolved into one of the finest setup men in the game. The past two seasons have been nothing but steady eliteness, to put it frankly. In 2022, he flashed elite strikeout stuff with 100th percentile BB%, leading to a 0.98 WHIP and an unlucky 3.05 ERA. Sadly, the K% dipped significantly last year and was in fact below average. However, that came with a 1.05 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and still upper-echelon command. No one can hit this guy hard at all if they can even hit him in the first place. The Chase% was actually top-notch as well, so I’m looking for that K% to get back up in 2024.

Graterol looks like the kind of pitcher that should have a 45% K-rate, but ultimately his stuff lends itself to groundball after groundball. That’s a fine specialty, cuz grounders never turn into extra-base hits, ya dig? His ratios should be among the best in the league. The holds totals should be as well. The only thing he’s not gonna give you is strikeouts.

Tier 3

Third tier goes from Cano to Minter.

Everyone remembers Cano storming onto the scene last year, inspiring “Can0.00” t-shirts and frantic waiver wire adds. Then later, he hit a real big bump in the road and honestly looked pretty bad. There was a huuuuge stretch where he gave up 46 H and 10 BB in 38.1 IP. I included a 39-game sample cuz only seven of those didn’t have a hit or walk. Still managed a good 2.58 ERA in that span, though. Finished the year strong, too. I’m honestly worried ranking him this high, cuz I just don’t really believe in the stuff. I believe in the control, though, and the fact he’s definitely gonna be the 8th-inning man on a good team. Overall, the ratios and holds will probably be in good shape.

Might be taking a leap here, but I figure Neris commands the 8th eventually for the Cubs, if not right off the bat. Julian Merryweather is a fine pitcher — damn near got 100 K last year — but he’s outclassed by Neris overall, who isn’t far removed from almost getting 100 K himself back in 2021. It’s fair to point out that Neris benefitted from an uncharacteristically low BABIP (.219), but I still feel better about his H/9 and stuff in general.

Minter is in line to receive 8th-inning duties again this year for Braves. Last year was a step down from his elite 2022 season, but you can’t complain too much with 31 SVHD (10 SV, 21 HLD), a sub-4.00 ERA, and an 11.4 K/9. Metrics still looked good last year, and he was the victim of a slightly inflated BABIP. I don’t know how much he positively regresses, but I wager there’s a little bit at least.

Tier 4

Fourth tier goes from Chapman to Payamps. This tier is the last of the bona fide 8th-inning guys. There are some others below (Gallegos, Harvey, Foley, maybe Pressly/Sborz), but for various reasons they aren’t worthy of this tier.

Chapman looked incredible last year, and even being second fiddle to Bednar in Pittsburgh, he’s gonna pitch his ass off in hopes of getting traded to a contender. The Bucs believe they can compete in their own right, which is why they went and got him. Chapman posted the third-best CSW% of his career last season despite an ugly 14.5 BB%. The strikeout stuff was delicious: 103 K in 58.1 IP. Sorry Colin Holderman stans, it’s the Chapman Show as far as holds go in Pitt.

Nardi broke out last year, spilling red onto your screen when you go to his Statcast page. When you’ve got a K% north of 30 and a single-digit BB%, good things are bound to happen. Vast majority of the holds in Miami should come his way, with good-to-great ratios and probably 70+ K.

I’m still a Sims believer. Have been for a long time. He’s actually got disgusting stuff, it’s just he can’t control it — the Achilles heel of most RP with disgusting stuff. Even though his K% isn’t in elite territory, the SwStr% is. He’s working on a splitter this year, and that would only ramp up his repertoire. Fact remains he should be the primary setup guy in Cincy regardless. I don’t think Emilio Pagan encroaches too much upon that.

Raley is just solid all-around. He should get holds, provide good ratios, and strike out more batters than innings pitched.

Last in this tier is Payamps, who enjoyed a little breakout season himself in 2023. He’s shown for three years in a row now that he can be an effective pitcher with very good control, but then he busted out a K% just under 27, while in years prior it had never been higher than 18.5%. If those Ks stick around with a full-time 8th-inning workload, he should provide plenty of holds value.

Tier 5

Fifth tier goes from Poche to Pressly.

Poche is like Raley, good all-around and all that. He’s just not the #1 setup man on his team, so he’s gotta be bumped down a tier. But he’s still gonna see his fair share of holds while bringing quality across the board.

Foley had himself a dandy of a 2023 season. While his ERA was respectable in 2022, he was able to shave 127 points off it in 2023, while also seeing the WHIP go from 1.38 to 1.16. That’s probably due to a healthier BABIP, when 2022’s was steep (.354; down to .310 last year). He walks almost no one, but he also doesn’t have much strikeout stuff. Still, great ratios and 35 SVHD were the reward for fantasy managers last year. Figure something similar is what we get in 2024. The Ks keep him from being ranked any higher for me.

Pressly may in fact get the 8th inning in Houston. Don’t really know yet. Might be that he outvalues a few guys ahead of him on this list if he can get the type to churn out like 35 SVHD or something. But whatever, I think they just figure out that Abreu is the elite one and deserves all that fanfare. But, to Pressly’s credit, he’s still very good and very much worth rostering for holds.

Tier 6

Sixth tier goes from Stephenson to Harvey. These are all guys definitely worth rostering as likely steady holds sources, it’s just they’ve got some knocks against them for whatever.

For Stephenson, it’s his health right now, but also the fact that he may just steal the closer job from Estevez eventually, which would entirely negate the holds value. Duh. I mostly expect that to happen, actually; he’s a much better pitcher. But if you’re looking at Stephenson from a SVHD standpoint, he’s pretty ding dang great.

Sborz’s holds value hinges upon his usage. Which sounds like the most obvious statement in the world. I just mean that David Robertson is now in the mix and capable of high-leverage work, and Jose Leclerc hasn’t been named the closer anyway, so maybe Sborz could work into a timeshare there or something. My gut tells me the pecking order goes Leclerc 9th, Sborz 8th, and Robertson 7th. If that’s the case, I’m a big Sborz fan. I know the ERA looks yuck, but the FIP and SIERA are in very fine shape. In 2022, he had a 10 H/9 that we can blame awful BABIP luck for. Last year, the H/9 got down to 7.4, while the K% was right above 30 and the BB% was just below 8. He’s got great swing-and-miss stuff along with an elite 33.4 CSW%. The man is very good, just been somewhat unlucky. A tad prone to the long ball. But still, the potential return for your meager investment is pretty immense.

Gallegos took a step backward in 2023. I’m not too put off by it, though. The CSW% is healthy, the SwStr% is hella healthy, and his job as the St. Louis’s 8th-inning man is pretty set in stone. It’s a bummer the K% dropped under 26 last year, but given that the swing-and-miss and getting-batters-to-chase numbers still look good, I’m hoping for some positive regression there. Would expect a good ERA, solid WHIP, 60-to-70-something K, and like 25+ HLD.

With Harvey, it’s a similar situation to Stephenson. Either a boss in the 8th or he just ends up as the team’s closer. I’m trusting that Finnegan will maintain his stake on closing duties, however, making Harvey a good holds guy to have around.


Other guys to watch

Jeff Hoffman was incredible in 2023. Where did this even come from? Was a completely nobody over the previous several years with Colorado and Cincy, and then all of a sudden he’s a 2.41 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 4.9 H/9, 3.3 BB/9, 11.9 K/9 kind of pitcher in his age-30 season? I need to see it again to truly believe, but it looks like he figured out he has an elite slider, using it almost half the time he threw a pitch, when that wasn’t the case earlier in his career. Last season, he threw 416 sliders and only six of them got hit, while 44.6% of the others were whiffed on entirely. He’s got a deadly mix of four-seam, splitter, and slider that bamboozled everyone in 2023. Wouldn’t be surprised if he replicates in 2024 while getting the bulk of high-leverage duties, making him maybe the biggest SVHD bargain of them all.

You’re probably thinking where the fudge is Yuki Matsui. I found it was too tricky to rank him for solely holds. I don’t know how many he might get, to be frank. Maybe he closes more than sets up. I think Matsui is one you want to target for holds early, recognizing you might have to pivot elsewhere if he manages to see saves. Obviously, in SVHD leagues, you want him.

David Robertson is someone to keep an eye on Texas. Said above I think he’s behind Leclerc/Sborz, but there’s still plenty of holds value in a 7th-inning guy for the Rangers.

If Gallegos starts to struggle, don’t forget about Andrew Kittredge, who used to be a SVHD stud for Tampa. Not really a believer in anyone else in that pen at the moment. Maaaaybe Keynan Middleton takes a step up due to his juicy strikeout potential.

Julian Merryweather is probably overshadowed by the arrival of Neris, but I still think he’s got some holds value in deeper formats. Kinda forgot he had 98 K in ’23.

I’m chickening out and not ranking Matt Brash. I probably should rank him, but I’m just scared, okay?! Initial news of his injury seemed to indicate his entire season was lost, and now he’s playing catch without issues. But that’s just catch. Once he ramps up, there could be setbacks. I’m honestly just gonna assume there will be a setback. Or two. My advice is to avoid him entirely if you’re drafting setup men, but if you’re in YOLO mode and believe in him and can get a discount, more power to ya!

Scott Barlow has looked good so far this spring for his new Guardians squad, but that really doesn’t mean one single damn thing. However, what does mean something is the fact that Trevor Stephan is probably starting the year on the IL with a deep bone bruise in his elbow. Barlow should be the main setup man for the early going, and he’s got the chops to run away with that kind of gig, healthy Stephan or no.

Justin Topa in now in Minnesota, where he’ll have healthy competition for high-leverage deployment. Brock Stewart was quietly very, very good. I kinda like these two the best, even though I currently have Stewart down on the depth chart for now. Waiting to see how usage pans out.

Tyler Rogers is borderline Top 20 for me. He was very effective last year and could feasibly get 30+ HLD again this year. Man has 30 HLD in two of the past three seasons in fact, so there’s every reason to believe he’s capable of that again. It’s just gonna come with middling ratios and strikeouts. He’s simply boring but very good at collecting holds.

Not real sure what to make of the Yankees situation beyond Holmes. I’ve read that Jonathan Loaisiga could get the “Michael King treatment” this year, making him a solid shot for speculative holds with quality bulk IP. Tommy Kahnle is behind on his preseason prep, which has me looking at Caleb Ferguson. Was great last year for the Dodgers.

I’ll admit it: I’m still an Alex Vesia truther. He got back on track in the second half of 2023, and with the departure of Ferguson, he’s next in line for lefty HLR duties. I got a feeling this guy is on very few radars, thus leaving you the chance to scoop him for “free” and reap the benefits.


That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment below so I feel all warm and fuzzy.

I specialize in bullpens, and I also do some fantasy hockey as well here at Razzball. Find me on Elon’s Disaster: @jkj0787. DMs are always open for questions, comments, concerns, complaints, etc. Odds are good I’m drinking black coffee, dark beer, or some form of bourbon at any given time of day.