The Hold Up 8/12: Ranking the Top 100 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

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

If it weren’t for Akil Baddoo we would be talking about Garrett Whitlock as the best Rule 5 draft pickup of this season and possibly of the last five or six years. Whitlock has logged 55.2 innings with the Red Sox this season, with his ERA sitting a 1.46 currently, which is easily the best on the roster. While he doesn’t have any true plus plus offerings, Whitlock has three pitches that could qualify as above average, with his changeup being slightly ahead of his slider at this time. He doesn’t get a ton of swings and misses but he does a great job limiting walks and missing barrels. Basically, everything in his profile is league average at worst which combined with his role in Boston’s bullpen gives him an extremely high floor, for now.

At a time where the rest of the Red Sox pitching staff seems to be unraveling, Whitlock is coming off what may be his worst outing of the season, allowing four hits and two walks against the Rays on Tuesday and it’s fair to wonder if fatigue is starting to become a factor (for him and the entire pitching staff). Whitlock didn’t pitch at all in 2020 as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, so that’s something to keep in mind as the year goes on and his innings continue to pile up. That being said, Boston will continue to need to rely on him for quality innings if they want to make a push for a playoff spot as closer Matt Barnes is hurting and the team failed to add to their bullpen at the deadline (Hansel Robles doesn’t count).




  • After initially struggling after the sticky stuff rules were announced and seeing his spin rates down 400 RPM’s across the board, Tyler Matzek appears to have adjusted after the All-Star break. In eleven innings after the break, he has yet to allow an earned run while holding a .46 WHIP and 13/3 K-BB ratio. Even with the addition of Richard Rodríguez, Matzek has been holding down a steady setup role over that time as his nine SV+HLD’s lead the league over the past 30 days.
  • Aaron Loup has been fantastic this season, especially since the calendar turned to June, but the problem has been his role as he has been working earlier in games (even starting some) and as a result, only has three holds dating back to the middle of June. Sure he will help with ratios as well, but being just a two-category contributor, it’s tough to justify a top 20-25 ranking for Loup until he starts factoring into more hold opportunities.


  • Paul Fry has not had the best start to August, as the left-hander has allowed nine earned runs over three innings to go with a 2/8 K/BB ratio. Obviously, these are horrendous numbers but most of the underlying numbers still suggest Fry is a much better pitcher than this. That said, with Tanner Scott being activated off the IL yesterday there’s more competition again in the late innings for an Orioles team that is not winning a lot of games right now.
  • While he may not help in the holds column, Garrett Crochet has been in the best stretch of his career lately as he’s been dominating since the end of June. Over his last 13.2 innings of work, Crochet holds a 1.92 ERA and .95 WHIP while striking out 21 and walking just four. With so many names in front of him on the pecking order, it’s hard to justify him in the next tier, but Crochet can still help with strikeouts and ratios for the time being.


  • I feel like it needs to be said every year, but Héctor Neris is a good pitcher who just tends to be streaky. While others like Will Smith have disastrous outings once or twice a month, Neris’s blown saves tend to come in bunches leading to him losing the closer role in back-to-back years. Lately, we’ve seen the good Neris, as he hasn’t allowed a run over his last 10.2 innings and dating back to July 6th has a 1.53 ERA (three earned runs all came in one game), .85 WHIP and 22/5 K/BB ratio over 17.2 innings pitched. He may never get his job back with Ian Kennedy now in the picture, but Neris deserves to be a factor in the later innings for the Phillies.
  • A.J. Puk has been called up by the Athletics to work out of the bullpen and in his first outing wowed with two strikeouts in a clean inning with his fastball sitting in the 96-98 range. He’s certainly an upside flyer to consider but I just don’t know if there is enough room in that Oakland bullpen for Puk to carve out an actually high leverage role. The best case scenario for him would be a Crochet-like role and production.


Rank Pitcher Change
1Craig KimbrelT1-
2Blake Treinen
3Devin Williams-
4Kendall Graveman-
5Giovanny Gallegos+1
6James Karinchak+1
7Paul Sewald-2
8Chad Green+2
9Anthony Bender-
10Aaron Bummer
11Jonathan Loáisiga-
12Collin McHugh-
13Michael Kopech+1
14Trevor May+2
15Seth Lugo+2
17Adam Ottavino+3
18Daniel Hudson-3
19David Bednar-
20Lucas Sims+UR
21Corey Knebel
22Ryan Tepera-1
23Jake Cousins+UR
24Andrew Chafin-2
25Michael Fulmer-
26Austin Adams-2
27Jake Diekman-
28Brad Boxberger+UR
29Andrew Kittredge+3
30Michael Lorenzen+UR
31Tyler Matzek+19
32Garrett Whitlock-6
33Joe Barlow-
34Aaron Loup-11
35Josh Taylor-6
36Chris Martin-6
37Emilio Pagán-6
38Drew Steckenrider-4
39Pierce Johnson-3
40Richard Rodríguez+1
41Tanner Scott
42Paul Fry-14
43Sergio Romo-5
44Brad Hand-4
45Garrett Crochet+8
46Brent Suter+6
47Dominic Leone+4
48Ryne Stanek-5
49JT Chargois+5
50Héctor Neris+7
51Joe Kelly-5
52Yusmeiro Petit-4
53Jarlín García-9
55José Cisnero+11
56Archie Bradley+8
57Nick Sandlin-12
58Génesis Cabrera+14
59Josh Staumont+3
60Codi Heuer-5
61Craig Stammen
62Heath Hembree-3
63A.J. Puk+UR
64Jake Brentz+15
65Adam Cimber+23
66Luke Jackson+15
67Tim Hill+9
68Noé Ramirez+UR
69Carlos Estévez+5
70Tyler Duffey-5
71Richard Bleier-36
72Connor Brogdon+UR
73Ryne Harper-6
74Casey Sadler-6
75Ryan Helsley+UR
76Juan Minaya+UR
77Bryan Shaw-14
78Kyle Funkhouser-8
79Yimi García-8
81Alex Vesia
82Phil Bickford+UR
83Anthony Misiewicz-14
84Steve Cishek-11
85Jeurys Familia-7
86Brooks Raley-6
87Caleb Thielbar-10
88Zack Littell+UR
89Trevor Richards+UR
90Mason Thompson+UR
92Lucas Luetge-10
93Joely Rodríguez-7
94Jeff Hoffman+UR
95Hirokazu Sawamura-
96Sean Doolittle-13
97Cristian Javier-36
98Brusdar Graterol+UR
99Justin Wilson+UR
100Pedro Báez+UR


Photo by Mark Goldman/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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