The Hold Up 8/26: Ranking the Top 100 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

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

While Victor Gonzalez was a popular sleeper pick in holds leagues heading into the year, it’s been a different Dodgers lefty dominating on the mound, that being Alex Vesia. While Gonzalez was sent to AAA yesterday, Vesia continues to position himself for a setup role as the team’s top left-handed reliever, a role that certainly has fantasy value as long as Dave Roberts is the manager. Vesia’s first stint in LA did not go so well, but since being recalled in July, he’s been one of the best relievers in baseball, with his .8 WAR actually being tied for second-highest. Over those 19.1 innings, Vesia has a .47 ERA (2.74 SIERA) .52 WHIP, plus 34.3% K and 17.7% SwStr rates. His slider holds a 57.1% Whiff rate on the year, one of the highest in baseball, and his 39.6% overall Whiff rate is good for sixth-best amongst relievers who have faced at least 100 batters. With three holds over the past week, it looks like Vesia may be locked into a high leverage role in LA, making him as close to “must roster” as possible. And while Dylan Floro has been solid in Miami, Marlins fans probably want this one back, as an Anthony Bender/Vesia late-inning duo would be so fun to watch.




  • There are a few relievers who have moved up the top of the ranks this week almost by default, with Seth Lugo being one of them. He hasn’t picked up a hold in exactly a month but over his last 15.1 innings, he’s only allowed just one run, to go with a .97 WHIP, and 32.9% CSW. This is closer to the Lugo we have become accustomed to, and it should be just a matter of time for the holds to start trickling in.
  • With Matt Barnes out as the Red Sox closer, for now, the rest of the bullpen gets a small bump with Garrett Whitlock perhaps the biggest beneficiary. Whitlock only has one hold over the past month but will need to be relied upon now for more consistent high leverage work. It’s not like he hasn’t had his struggles lately as well (4 ER, 4 BB over his last 6.1 IP), but the team really has nowhere else to turn to at the moment.


  • It looks like Jake Cousins will be the odd man out in the Milwaukee late-inning triumvirate, with Brad Boxberger, Devin Williams, and Josh Hader locking things down from the seventh inning on. That’s not to say Cousins won’t get the occasional hold or maybe even a win or two, but his value does take a small hit with that bullpen at full health now. He’s also shown some cracks in the armor lately, allowing four hits and five walks over his past 5.1 innings.
  • While Vesia was mentioned at the top, we shouldn’t forget about Phil Bickford who has been an unsung hero for the Dodgers this season and has even picked up three holds in the past ten days. With the bullpen back at nearly full health with the return of Joe Kellyit remains to be seen where Bickford will figure in, but he’s certainly deserving of more high leverage work.


  • Sergio Romo has been great over the past four months for the A’s, but that bullpen is a bit crowded at the moment so it may be hard for him to get consistent hold opportunities. That being said, Lou Trivino has struggled lately so if he loses his grip on the closer role, Romo becomes a near must add in most SV+HLD leagues. The trio of Jake Diekman, Andrew Chafin, and Romo could be handling the team’s late-inning high leverage work sooner rather than later considering Trivino’s 4.50 xFIP/SIERA and lack of swing and miss ability.
  • Josh Staumont’s season has been a bit of a disappointment as many had expected him to really break out this year as he’s just been “very good” but not great. The strikeout numbers have dropped (as has his velo), but so has the walk rate leading to a 17.3% K-BB rate, down just 1.5% from last year. While the swing and miss stuff isn’t the same as last year, Staumont still holds a 3.42 ERA and 1.18 WHIP and should be in line for set up work with Greg Holland and Jake Brentz on the IL. EDIT: Staumont landed on the IL this afternoon and has since been removed.


Rank Pitcher Change
1Craig KimbrelT1-
2Blake Treinen-
3Devin Williams-
4Kendall Graveman+1
5Giovanny Gallegos+2
6Chad Green+2
7Jonathan Loáisiga+5
8Collin McHugh+7
9Seth Lugo+7
10Anthony Bender
11Michael Kopech+2
13Tyler Matzek+9
14Aaron Bummer-3
15Brad Boxberger+3
16Daniel Hudson+1
17James Karinchak-8
18Corey Knebel-4
19Trevor May+1
20Adam Ottavino+1
21Garrett Whitlock
22Drew Steckenrider+UR
23Lucas Sims-
24Génesis Cabrera+3
25Alex Vesia+40
26Jake Diekman+4
27Ryan Tepera+4
28Andrew Chafin+4
29Andrew Kittredge+4
30Jake Cousins-6
31Michael Fulmer-5
32Sergio Romo+13
33Aaron Loup-4
34Austin Adams-
35Emilio Pagán+1
36Pierce Johnson-1
37Richard Rodríguez-
38Phil Bickford+26
39Héctor Neris+1
40Garrett Crochet-1
41Codi Heuer
42Dominic Leone+4
43Tim Mayza+25
44Josh Taylor-1
45Tanner Scott-3
46Luke Jackson+3
47Mychal Givens+UR
48Yusmeiro Petit+3
49Joe Kelly+4
50Wandy Peralta+16
51Luis García+UR
52Brent Suter-8
53Ryne Stanek-3
54Jarlín García-6
55José Alvarado+UR
56Archie Bradley-9
57Chris Martin-19
58José Cisnero-4
59Carlos Estévez-3
60Richard Lovelady+UR
61A.J. Minter
62Adam Cimber+9
63Tim Hill+7
64Austin Warren+UR
65Manuel Rodríguez+26
66Joely Rodríguez+24
67Brad Hand-8
69Tyler Duffey+6
70Domingo Tapia+UR
72A.J. Puk-14
73Aaron Ashby+UR
74Kyle Funkhouser-
75Brooks Raley+6
76Chris Stratton+UR
77Bryan Shaw-4
79Kyle Zimmer+UR
80Andrés Machado+17
81Craig Stammen
82Paul Fry-21
83Zack Littell-16
84Juan Minaya-12
85Casey Sadler-6
86Steve Cishek-3
87Joakim Soria+UR
88Connor Brogdon-12
89Noé Ramirez-12
90Mason Thompson+2
91Richard Bleier-11
92Caleb Thielbar-10
93Jhoulys Chacín-4
94Adam Morgan+4
95Yohan Ramírez+UR
96Cristian Javier+UR
97Josh Sborz+UR
98Jeurys Familia+UR
99Brusdar Graterol+UR
100Hirokazu Sawamura-7


Photo by Gregory Fisher/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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