The Hold Up 7/1: Ranking the Top 90 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

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

After a rocky first half of the season, it appears as if Devin Williams may be turning a corner on his 2021 season, but I think we can all give up hope on seeing anything like he did in 2020 again. That was always a longshot to begin with, but Williams has proved this year that he in fact is human, and while he continues to pile up the strikeouts, he also continues to allow baserunners at a high rate. Williams June was fantastic from an ERA (1.64) and K (20) standpoint, but he allowed eight hits and eight walks over just 11.1 innings of work. The walk rate is for himself to figure out, as he needs to adjust to hitters not chasing his changeup as much, but as far as the hits go, I think it’s safe to say he’s been getting a bit unlucky in that category. There was almost no way he’d replicate his .194 BABIP from last year again, but I think given his hard-hit rate, a .322 BABIP does seem higher than expected. I think he still remains a strong hold and for those of you who have been patient, hopefully, the second half pays off.




  • The Padres received some reinforcement in their bullpen this week with both Drew Pomeranz and Pierce Johnson returning from the IL. Pomeranz is the big name here, and given the upside he’s shown the past two years, I still consider him tier-one despite not looking quite like himself in his first game back. It could just be rust from the long layoff, but his velo was down over a MPH, and his spin rates also down quite a bit. It’s still worth keeping an eye on over his next few outings.
  • The White Sox lost both Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall to injuries this week, but they were able to get Michael Kopech back, who should slide right back into a prominent high leverage role in that bullpen with the likes of Bummer and Marshall on the shelf. Kopech hasn’t pitched in over a month, but he was having himself quite the season in mostly a relief role (and three spot starts) and I wouldn’t worry too much about long-term effects of his hamstring injury.
  • After Garrett Whitlock burst onto the scene in April, he took a bit of a step back in May, but then proceeded to pitch well in June despite a high WHIP. The WHIP hasn’t hurt him yet, but he has allowed at least one hit over his past 17 outings that have been longer than just a third of an inning. He can work around the hits, as long as he isn’t walking anyone.
  • Just two weeks ago, Pete Fairbanks had a sparkling 1.06 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, and was the Rays top setup option. Cut to now and that ERA and WHIP have grown to 4.91 and 1.73 respectively and it’s fair to wonder what his current role in this bullpen is.
  • I had been holding off on Cristian Javier in these rankings believing that he may return to the Astros rotation eventually, but it looks like he may be in the bullpen for the rest of the season (pending no more SP injuries). The Astros certainly need as much bullpen help as they can get, and Javier may be their best option outside of Ryan Pressly. His slider continues to be a plus pitch, currently with a .149 xwOBA, 51.6% Whiff, and 31.6% PutAway rate.
  • The Brewers reliever pipeline continues with Jake Cousins who has burst onto the scene, and while it’s only been four games at the MLB level, you can see the upside here. He has still yet to allow a hit at this level and has struck out eleven in just 5.1 innings of work. Cousins relies heavily on his slider, which so far has garnered ridiculous 73.3% Whiff and 52.4% PutAway rates.
Rank Pitcher Change
1Giovanny GallegosT1-
2Scott Barlow+1
3Chad Green+1
4Blake Treinen+3
5Seth Lugo+3
6Drew Pomeranz+UR
7Emmanuel Clase+UR
8Devin Williams+2
9Jake Diekman
10J.P. Feyereisen+1
11Andrew Chafin+2
12Michael Kopech+UR
13Austin Adams+2
14Adam Ottavino+2
15Trevor May+4
16Victor González+1
17Jimmy Nelson+1
18José Alvarado
19Jonathan Loáisiga+2
20Gregory Soto+2
21Emilio Pagán+2
23Garrett Whitlock+13
24Tanner Scott+3
25Aaron Loup+4
26Collin McHugh+4
27Chris Martin-1
28Tyler Duffey
29Pete Fairbanks-17
30Dylan Floro+8
31Brad Boxberger-6
33Ryne Stanek-1
34Miguel Castro+1
35Anthony Bender+5
36Garrett Crochet-2
37Héctor Neris+UR
38Paul Fry+UR
39Josh Staumont-2
40Jeffrey Springs-1
41Hansel Robles
42Pierce Johnson+UR
43Kyle Zimmer-
44Yusmeiro Petit+1
45A.J. Minter+2
46Josh Sborz+3
47Craig Stammen+4
48Joely Rodríguez+7
49Génesis Cabrera+5
50Cristian Javier+UR
51Matt Wisler+10
52Jake Cousins+37
53Wander Suero-7
54David Bednar-4
56Connor Brogdon-3
57Tyler Chatwood-5
58Andrew Kittredge+5
59Brent Suter+6
60Tyler Matzek-12
61Tim Hill-4
62Brooks Raley-6
63Jake Brentz-5
64Caleb Thielbar+4
65Josh Taylor+4
66Darwinzon Hernández-2
67Ranger Suárez+3
68Rex Brothers-9
69Nick Sandlin+3
70Codi Heuer+1
71Brad Brach+UR
72Tim Mayza+UR
73Bryan Shaw
74Hirokazu Sawamura-8
75JT Chargois-
76Drew Steckenrider+2
77Paul Sewald+11
78Sam Howard+UR
79Brett Martin+7
80Heath Hembree-3
81Darren O’Day+UR
83Kyle Crick+1
84Joe Kelly+UR
85Sean Doolittle-6
86Anthony Castro+UR
87Steve Cishek+UR
88Austin Voth+UR
89Carlos Estévez-4
90Dominic Leone-


Photo by Nick Wosika/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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