The Hold Up 8/13: Ranking the Top 90 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

Rick Graham ranks baseball's top setup men for the 2020 season.

After winning the World Series last year, the one weak spot that the Nationals failed to address this offseason was their bullpen. They’ve essentially lost Sean Doolittle who doesn’t seem to have his fastball anymore, which left a huge hole behind last year’s deadline-deal steal Daniel Hudson.

Enter Tanner Rainey, who flashed tantalizing upside last season but was marred by a high walk rate (17.8%). Well so far in 2020, that walk rate is down over 10% and he is even missing more bats than before. His 21.9% SwStr rate is currently third among all relievers while a 39.3% K rate ranks in the top 20. His slider currently has an 88% Whiff rate, with his total Whiff percentage ranking in the 98th percentile.

Rainey’s fastball velocity has dipped about two mph this season, but he’s now able to command that mid 90s fastball, which pairs nicely with that wipeout slider of his. It’s looking like a breakout season for the future Nationals closer, and as long as his walk rate stays below 10%, this is someone you want in all SV+HLD formats.


  • Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo basically switch spots for this week, but I’d imagine the two switch back to their original roles sooner rather than later. Diaz still only has one bad outing this season (against Boston), and his slider looks much better than it did last year.
  • Jonathan Hernandez and Rafael Montero also swapped lists this week, but this should be more permanent. Hernandez’s slider currently has a 60% Whiff and 50% PutAway rate which is pretty absurd considering he also has a 98 mph sinker.
  • Gregory Soto has excelled in a full-time bullpen role for the Tigers so far this season, as he has a similar repertoire to Hernandez, just from the left side. With Buck Farmer landing on the IL, Soto should be the Tigers’ top setup man for the foreseeable future.
  • Josh Tomlin continues to succeed despite the lack of velocity and has basically scrapped his four-seamer for a cutter/curve combo that has dominated hitters on both sides of the plate. He got knocked around last night but has still yet to allow a HR on the year after allowing 39 from 2018-19.
  • Burch Smith has come from out of nowhere to be on the best relievers in baseball currently, so what’s the difference? For starters, his fastball velocity is up about two mph, and that fastball has carried him to this fantastic start. His offspeed offerings still need some work, but for now, he will try to continue to ride his fastball to success.


Rank Pitcher Change
1Drew PomeranzT1-
2Tyler Duffey+1
3Edwin Díaz
4Will Smith+1
5James Karinchak+1
6Chad Green+3
7Emilio Pagán+3
8Joakim Soria+5
9Blake Treinen+5
10Tanner Rainey+12
11Jordan Romano+9
12Matt Barnes-1
13Pedro Báez+4
14Scott Barlow+16
15Sergio Romo-3
16Adam Ottavino
17Diego Castillo-2
18Caleb Ferguson+1
19Félix Peña+4
20David Phelps+4
22Jeremy Jeffress+4
23Carlos Estévez+5
24Jonathan Hernández+UR
25Will Harris+UR
26Dellin Betances+10
27José Alvarado+11
28Yusmeiro Petit+9
29Gregory Soto+51
30Freddy Peralta+45
31Justin Wilson-2
33Trevor May-15
34Jake Diekman+13
35John Gant-2
36Aaron Bummer-28
37Chaz Roe+3
38Tyler Clippard+11
39Nick Wittgren+2
40Shane Greene+6
41Andrew Miller-10
42Javy Guerra+28
43Josh Tomlin+UR
44Burch Smith+UR
45Ryan Helsley+UR
46Chris Martin-25
49Mychal Givens+27
50Oliver Pérez+15
51Andrew Chafin-9
52Brett Martin+2
53Corey Knebel
54Ian Kennedy-15
55Buck Farmer-21
56Brusdar Graterol+UR
57Craig Stammen-9
58Blake Taylor-13
59Richard Rodríguez+UR
60A.J. Minter-2
62Luke Jackson-11
63Kyle Ryan-10
64Matt Strahm-3
65Wander Suero-8
66Austin Adams-3
67Cody Stashak-11
68Junior Guerra-2
71Nate Jones+12
72José Alvarez+7
73Daniel Bard+13
74Joely Rodríguez
75Josh Staumont+UR
76José Cisnero+UR
77Alex Reyes-4
78Adam Morgan-28
79Yoshi Hirano-10
80Josh Taylor-12
81T.J. McFarland+UR
82Miguel Castro-1
83Tanner Scott+2
84Travis Lakins Sr.+UR
85Matt Foster+UR
86Yency Almonte-8
87Tommy Hunter+1
88Brent Suter+1
89Brooks Raley+UR
90Drew Smith+UR


Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm 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.

2 responses to “The Hold Up 8/13: Ranking the Top 90 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday”

  1. Greg says:

    No Taylor Rogers? I highly question this list…

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