The Hold Up 4/15: Ranking the Top 90 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

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

Since it’s early in the season and sample sizes are minute, it’s easy to treat the first two weeks as an extended Spring Training, noticing velocity and new pitch trends. While you mostly see pitchers lose an MPH of velocity if anything, Kendall Graveman has been adding MPH to his fastball/sinker since 2015 and the trend continues to aim upward. Graveman has become Blake Treinen-lite this year, featuring a sinker/slider/changeup mix with a new and improved slider that’s garnered a 44.4% Whiff rate so far. He’s currently working as Rafael Montero’s primary setup man, but with Montero’s early-season issues (2/5 in save chances), Graveman could find himself closing out games real soon.




  • Devin Williams will be held out of high leverage spots for the time being, but I’m still not ready to give up on the 2020 Rookie AND Reliever of the Year. His velocity has been down one MPH to begin the year, and he likely just needs some time to ramp up after a late start to the spring, as the team proceeds with caution with him and his shoulder.
  • A similar story can be told about Tyler Duffey and Tanner Rainey. Rainey got a really late start to the spring and has yet to recover his velocity from last season. Duffey had gotten his velocity back it seemed, but was back down yesterday as he averaged 91.3 MPH in his appearance. Neither guy seems right at the moment but given the alternatives or lack thereof, I couldn’t drop them too far this week. Hopefully, they can get things turned around heading into May.
  • Hansel Robles and Corey Knebel continue to move up the list, with both working in prominent setup roles at the moment. I think there’s a good chance we see one, if not both of them closing out games at some point this season, with Robles currently the favorite given how bad Alex Colomé has been this year.
  • We saw some more of Josh Staumont this past week, with the injury to Jesse Hahn forcing him into some high-leverage situations finally. He was also one of those relievers who didn’t get a ton of work this spring and it’s shown, with his velo down an MPH to a paltry 97 MPH average.  With Greg Holland extra shaky these days, look for Staumont’s value to continue to rise.
  • It’s awesome to see Connor Brogdon trusted with a setup role in Philadelphia with Archie Bradley hitting the IL, and the rookie hasn’t disappointed yet. Bradley will be back in a few weeks, but I could definitely envision Brogdon taking over the 7th inning role while Jose Alvarado works the 8th. That could give Bradley more of a stopper role, but there’s room for all 3 to have value here.
  • While he has yet to be activated, it seems likely that Félix Peña will be available this weekend for an Angels team desperate for some late-inning help. Pena is working his way back from a hamstring strain and should return right back into a setup role. Brusdar Graterol is also expected to return this weekend, but with so many mouths to feed in that bullpen, his exact role will be up in the air.
  • Austin Adams returned from the IL last week, but the early results have been very mixed. The slider specialist has only thrown a total of 44.2 innings over his 5 year MLB career but when healthy has been able to miss bats with the best relievers in baseball. His best season came in 2019, where his fastball average 95.1 MPH, which is a bit higher than his current 93.7 MPH. Right now, Adams is a high-risk/high-reward option to chase, but not someone who needs to be rostered right away.
  • Darwinzon Hernandez and Sean Newcomb deserved some more love for how they’ve pitched this season, but if both were still starting pitchers, they’d for sure get the Cherry Bomb label from Nick. Darwinzon is still having trouble with walks, and with Newcomb’s track record, it’s hard not to see a huge meltdown in the near future. Newcomb is definitely the more interesting of the two for now though, as you love to see the two MPH uptick in fastball velocity.


Rank Pitcher Change
1Drew PomeranzT1+4
2James Karinchak+2
3Giovanny Gallegos-1
4Devin Williams-3
5Chad Green+1
6Trevor May
7Lucas Sims+6
8Tyler Duffey-
9Tanner Rainey-
10Aaron Bummer+1
11Scott Barlow+1
12Blake Treinen+2
14Taylor Rogers+2
15Victor González+6
16Codi Heuer+6
17José Alvarado+7
18Jake Diekman+UR
19Rafael Dolis+6
20Adam Ottavino-
21Emilio Pagán
22Miguel Castro+8
23Corey Knebel+9
24Hansel Robles+9
25Tanner Scott+1
26Garrett Crochet+1
28Josh Staumont+15
29Connor Brogdon+27
31Kendall Graveman+15
32Tejay Antone+16
33Michael Kopech+9
34Wander Suero-5
35Jordan Hicks-12
36Daniel Hudson
37Mychal Givens+7
38Justin Wilson+7
39Keone Kela+10
40Félix Peña+UR
41Darren O’Day+16
42Nick Wittgren-11
43A.J. Minter-8
44Andrew Chafin-8
45Brent Suter-8
46Sean Doolittle-7
47Kevin Ginkel+3
48Tyler Matzek+4
49Austin Adams+UR
50Cody Stashak+15
51Dylan Floro+15
52Ryne Stanek+18
54Sean Newcomb+UR
55Darwinzon Hernández+UR
56Hirokazu Sawamura-2
57Brusdar Graterol+UR
58J.P. Feyereisen+6
59Pierce Johnson+UR
60Jason Adam-
61Sergio Romo+1
62Robert Stephenson-4
63Josh Sborz+16
64Sam Howard+UR
65Wandy Peralta+UR
66Duane Underwood Jr.+24
67Kyle Zimmer+20
68Garrett Whitlock+UR
69Anthony Bass+UR
70Andrew Kittredge+6
71Andrew Miller
72Wade Davis-4
73Aaron Slegers-6
74Jonathan Loáisiga-21
75David Bednar-16
76Ryan Tepera-4
77Matt Andriese+1
78Junior Guerra+5
79Tyler Kinley-4
80Phil Maton-9
82Chris Stratton+6
83Cody Reed+UR
84Caleb Thielbar+UR
85Rex Brothers+UR
86Luke Jackson+UR
87Sam Coonrod+UR
88Yoan López+UR
89John Curtiss+UR
90Kyle Crick+UR


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.

4 responses to “The Hold Up 4/15: Ranking the Top 90 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday”

  1. Brett says:

    Why so low on Pagan? Worried he doesn’t get opportunities?

  2. Jack says:

    This is always very helpful – thank you
    Would be nice to see the change in ranking instead of the +UR

    • Rick Graham says:

      Thanks Jack! Yea we’re having some problems with the holds list this year but we’re working on getting it fixed, hopefully soon.

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