The Hold Up 8/5: Ranking the Top 100 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

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

I think it’s safe to say we all wanted to see Anthony Bender fill the vacated closer role in Miami after the team traded Yimi García but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Marlins decided to go with veteran Dylan Floro instead. Not only that, but the team seems content with using Bender strictly in the seventh inning now, with other veterans like Anthony Bass and Richard Bleier getting the eighth instead. Despite all of this, Bender is still one of the best setup options in all of baseball and should find plenty of hold opportunities in the seventh inning, assuming the Marlins can stay competitive.

I gave Bender a Ken Giles comp a while ago and I think that still holds up, as his slider has been one of the better pitches in baseball (50% Whiff) and his fastball can get up into the high 90’s. Bender’s 37.6% CSW ranks fourth amongst all relievers since May 1st, only behind Craig Kimbrel, Raisiel Iglesias, and Collin McHugh (min. 25 IP), and his .244 xwOBA this season puts him in the top ten for relievers (min. of 140 PA). As long as Bender is in the mix for holds, as he should, he will remain a top 15-20 option on this list.




  • Jonathan Loáisiga and Chad Green are having very comparable seasons so far, so much so that they have almost identical numbers over the past 60 days. Both pitchers have appeared in 18 games over this timeframe with Green having a 3.32 ERA, .82 WHIP, a 32/5 K/BB, eight SV+HLD’s, and four wins while Loáisiga has a 3.33 ERA, .97 WHIP, 25/2 K/BB, eight SV+HLD’s, and four wins. So the gap clearly needed to be narrowed, and I can certainly see an argument for Loáisiga over Green at this point.
  • Collin McHugh is set to return from the IL this weekend and is stepping into a bullpen that has been decimated by injury (and trades) as of late. That said, I don’t think we will see any sort of role change from McHugh, who is likely to return to a multi-inning relief role, albeit one that can still very much benefit fantasy managers. Matt Wisler (currently listed as a closer but would slot into the top 20 here) may be the best late-inning option, but McHugh’s ability to work multiple innings and great ratios and strikeout numbers are super valuable. Since the calendar flipped to May, McHugh has a .25 ERA, .69 WHIP, and a 54/7 K/BB ratio, but just three holds over 36+ innings.


  • The White Sox bullpen is certainly loaded with talent, but that might make it hard for the non-Craig Kimbrel’s or Liam Hendriks to have value in holds leagues. My guess is that Ryan Tepera and Michael Kopech to a lesser degree are affected the most here, as Aaron Bummer being left-handed should keep him in the late-inning mix.
  • Daniel Hudson was traded to the Padres last week and should be activated off the Covid IL this weekend. He should slot in behind Mark Melancon and Drew Pomeranz in the pecking order there, and retain most of his value despite joining a much deeper bullpen in San Diego. Monitor his usage closely over the next week or two though, because the two Mets behind him may present more upside in the long run.


  • Andrew Chafin has pitched just fine since joining the Athletics last week, but he has yet to factor into a decision and hasn’t picked up a save or hold since…June 20th? I hadn’t realized it had been that long, and it looks like he still may be behind others in this bullpen like Jake Diekman or Sergio Romo. It will be interesting to see how the late innings shake out here the rest of the way, but it’s not looking great for Chafin at the moment.
  • Joe Barlow is the new next man up in Texas behind Spencer Patton, and deservedly so. Featuring a repertoire not so different from Scott Barlow (no relation), Barlow has allowed just one earned run over his first 10.2 innings of work while striking out 15. It’s still too early to move him into the next tier and pitching for the Rangers limits his SV+HLD upside, but this is a name to keep an eye on.


  • Assuming Michael Lorenzen is the closer at the moment, Mychal Givens should continue to operate as the Reds’ top setup man, at least until Lucas Sims and Tejay Antone return. In his first four outings with his new team, Givens has allowed no runs on just two hits while striking out four and adding three holds.
  • After a slow start to the year, Sergio Romo has sneakily been one of the best relievers in baseball since the end of April with a 1.65 ERA, .70 WHIP, and 37/6 K/BB over his last 32.2 innings pitched. His 2.38 pCRA in that time ranks only behind McHugh, Craig Kimbrel, and Josh Hader for relievers (min. 400 pitches). He only has seven holds over that period, with just two coming in the last month, but he feels like a better bet in that bullpen than Yusmeiro Petit.


Rank Pitcher Change
1Craig KimbrelT1+UR
2Blake Treinen
3Devin Williams+6
4Kendall Graveman+6
5Paul Sewald+UR
6Giovanny Gallegos-5
7James Karinchak+UR
8Drew Pomeranz+3
9Anthony Bender+6
10Chad Green
11Jonathan Loáisiga+11
12Collin McHugh+UR
13Aaron Bummer-
14Michael Kopech-9
15Daniel Hudson+UR
16Trevor May-2
17Seth Lugo-13
19David Bednar-3
20Adam Ottavino-3
21Ryan Tepera
22Andrew Chafin-15
23Aaron Loup-4
24Austin Adams-3
25Michael Fulmer+9
26Garrett Whitlock-3
27Jake Diekman-3
28Paul Fry+9
29Josh Taylor-
30Chris Martin-5
31Emilio Pagán+2
32Andrew Kittredge-2
33Joe Barlow+UR
34Drew Steckenrider+2
35Richard Bleier-7
36Pierce Johnson+4
37Mychal Givens+17
38Sergio Romo+42
39Zack Britton+8
40Brad Hand+UR
41Richard Rodríguez
43Ryne Stanek+10
44Jarlín García+24
45Nick Sandlin+24
46Joe Kelly+9
47Craig Stammen+4
48Yusmeiro Petit-10
49Tim Mayza+21
50Tyler Matzek+21
51Dominic Leone+39
52Brent Suter+36
53Garrett Crochet-10
54JT Chargois+8
55Codi Heuer+24
56Victor González-14
57Héctor Neris-8
58José Alvarado-8
59Heath Hembree+UR
61Cristian Javier
62Josh Staumont-21
63Bryan Shaw-17
64Archie Bradley+3
65Tyler Duffey-9
66José Cisnero+UR
67Ryne Harper+UR
68Casey Sadler+UR
69Anthony Misiewicz+UR
70Kyle Funkhouser-6
71Yimi García+1
72Génesis Cabrera-14
73Steve Cishek+4
74Carlos Estévez+12
75Clay Holmes+UR
76Tim Hill+7
77Caleb Thielbar+19
78Jeurys Familia-2
79Jake Brentz-20
80Brooks Raley-19
81Luke Jackson
82Lucas Luetge+13
83Sean Doolittle+2
84Ryan Borucki-3
86Joely Rodríguez-38
87Dillon Tate+UR
88Adam Cimber+UR
89Anthony Bass+UR
90Miguel Castro-12
91Josh Sborz-31
92Demarcus Evans+UR
93Blake Taylor-6
94Rafael Dolis+3
95Hirokazu Sawamura-4
96Phil Maton-14
98John Curtiss+2
99Brett Martin+UR
100Louis Head+UR


Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire | Adapted b 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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