The Hold Up 4/8: Ranking the Top 90 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

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

There are plenty of great comeback stories a week into the season, with a handful of those names rising on our list. However, it’s  Jose Alvarado who excites me the most, as not only is the lefty averaging over 99 MPH with his sinker, but he’s also only walked one hitter over 3 innings of work. Yes, it’s early, but as long as Alvarado isn’t allowing free baserunners, he will be one of the best relievers in the game. Again, it’s early, but a 16.4% SwStr and 36.4% CSW are not crazy expectations for someone with Alvarado’s stuff.




  • Emilio Pagan may have lost out on the closer but it looks as if he may be the Padres primary setup guy in front of Mark MelanconDrew Pomeranz has been pitching in high leverage situations as well, but Jayce Tingler seems willing to use Pomeranz more erratically than Pagan, who has only pitched in either the 7th or 8th inning of games with the Padres tied or leading. Pagan still isn’t manufacturing a ton of whiffs, but I won’t argue with the early results.
  • He may be Cleveland’s closer or he may be part of a 3-man committee, but as things stand now, I’m not ready to call Nick Wittgren the closer, or a must-roster player. I still get the feeling Emmanuel Clase will wind up with the bulk of the save chances, but he worked the 8th inning on Wednesday, so he could face the middle of the Royals lineup later this week. He may be switching lists next week, but for now, he’s the 3rd wheel in a committee.
  • Corey Knebel has his fastball back, with the former Brewers closer averaging 96.5 MPH on his fastball this season. The only two seasons where Knebel’s fastball averaged 96+ MPH were in 2017 and 2018, by far the best seasons of his career. It looks like the Dodgers struck gold again this year with their annual RP free-agent lottery ticket (last year with Blake Treinen), with Knebel already moving himself into a setup role.
  • Speaking of former closers surprising out of the gate, Hansel Robles is off to a hot start with the Twins and seemingly has himself a setup role already. Just like with Knebel, Robles has seen an uptick in velocity this season (although it was on par with 2020 yesterday) but more importantly has made his changeup his featured pitch. His slider has never been very effective, but the fastball/changeup combo makes Robles a late-inning weapon.
  • Did I say speaking of former closers surprising out of the gate? We can’t just forget about Sean Doolittle then, who, just like Knebel and Robles, has seen his fastball velocity climb back to 2018/2019 territory, leading to an early 22% SwStr rate. He looks locked into that secondary setup role behind Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett, but if Garrett’s struggles continue, he could find himself back in a closing role.
  • It’s discouraging that we’ve only seen Josh Staumont in one game and it wasn’t in a high-leverage situation. Instead, the Royals have had Jesse Hahn and Wade Davis close out games, while Scott Barlow and Greg Holland have also gotten work. I’m not sure if Mike Matheny is concerned about Staumont’s health or walk rate or something else, but either way, it’s concerning.


Rank Pitcher Change
1Devin WilliamsT1-
2Giovanny Gallegos+UR
3Jordan Romano+UR
4James Karinchak-2
5Drew Pomeranz+2
6Chad Green
7Trevor May-3
8Tyler Duffey-2
9Tanner Rainey-1
10Pete Fairbanks-1
11Aaron Bummer-1
12Scott Barlow-
13Lucas Sims
14Blake Treinen-3
16Taylor Rogers+1
17Emilio Pagán+UR
18Chris Martin-4
19Archie Bradley+1
20Adam Ottavino+2
21Victor González
22Codi Heuer+5
23Jordan Hicks-10
24José Alvarado+8
25Rafael Dolis-6
26Tanner Scott+UR
27Garrett Crochet+1
28Enoli Paredes-7
29Wander Suero+1
30Miguel Castro+1
31Nick Wittgren
32Corey Knebel+30
33Hansel Robles+40
35A.J. Minter+5
36Andrew Chafin+10
37Brent Suter+5
39Sean Doolittle+24
41Yimi García-7
42Michael Kopech+7
43Josh Staumont-20
44Mychal Givens+1
45Justin Wilson+UR
46Kendall Graveman+35
47Andrew Miller-12
48Tejay Antone
49Keone Kela+10
50Kevin Ginkel+3
51Lou Trivino+5
52Tyler Matzek+9
53Jonathan Loáisiga+UR
54Hirokazu Sawamura-4
55Jesse Hahn-
56Connor Brogdon-9
57Darren O’Day+1
58Robert Stephenson-22
59David Bednar+8
60Jason Adam-9
61Reyes Moronta-4
62Sergio Romo+2
63Matt Bush+13
64J.P. Feyereisen+5
65Cody Stashak-24
66Dylan Floro+8
67Aaron Slegers+UR
68Wade Davis+UR
69José Cisnero+17
70Ryne Stanek+UR
71Phil Maton
72Ryan Tepera-
73David Phelps+12
74Michael Fulmer+UR
75Tyler Kinley+2
76Andrew Kittredge+6
77Brandon Workman+6
78Matt Andriese+6
79Josh Sborz-13
80Wes Benjamin+UR
81Anthony Misiewicz+UR
82Taylor Clarke+UR
83Junior Guerra+UR
84Alec Mills+UR
85Bryan Garcia+UR
86Brooks Raley+UR
87Kyle Zimmer-16
88Chris Stratton+UR
90Duane Underwood Jr.+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.

5 responses to “The Hold Up 4/8: Ranking the Top 90 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday”

  1. Bbhhi says:

    Thoughts on where Colin McHugh falls

  2. micah.mclain@gmail.com says:

    Joe Smith is an interesting omission…I guess his skills and Houston’s bullpen usage doesn’t justify holds value even though he’s the setup man for Pressly?

    • Rick Graham says:

      Yea I’ll probably add him back next week, especially with Paredes going down. I see Stanek making a push for that top setup role, but Smith could still see some holds going forward.

  3. Brett says:

    Am I missing Clase not in the holds rankings?

    • Rick Graham says:

      He was on the closer list Tuesday, but that could change next week. He’d probably be in that 3rd tier here.

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