The Hold Up 9/21: Ranking the Top 100 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

Ranking baseball's top setup options for the 2023 season.

It’s been two disappointing seasons for former closers Scott Barlow and José Leclerc, however, they are showing some positives down the stretch, giving us a glimpse of their potential upside.

For Barlow, it was anyone’s guess as to whether the Royals would even be able to trade him with how bad he was pitching leading up to the trade deadline. He then got off to a terrible start in San Diego but over his past 19.1 IP, Barlow has a 0.47 ERA (2.83 SIERA), 0.78 WHIP to go with 32.4% K and 36.8% CSW rates, and if Josh Hader signs elsewhere this offseason, could be the favorite to close out games for the Padres next year.

Leclerc has been more hit or miss lately but has been a steady reliable reliever since the start of July, which can not be said about the likes of Aroldis Chapman or Will Smith in that bullpen. Since July started,  Leclerc has a respectable 2.60 ERA (3.77 SIERA), 1.08 WHIP, plus 15.5% SwStr and 29% K rates over his past 27.2 IP. He also picked up the team’s last save and could be leaned on in that closer role the rest of the way depending on how the team decides to use Chapman.




  • With Elvis Peguero landing on the IL, along with the recent struggles of Joel Payamps, Abner Uribe may be the Brewers’ top set-up option entering the postseason. Uribe picked up three holds this past week, and while walks have been an issue for him (7 over 8.1 September innings), he’s allowed just ONE hit over his past 9.1 innings of work as his pure stuff is just so filthy. He continues to trend up and I think is a reliever we can fully trust down the stretch despite his inexperience.
  • Caleb Ferguson had gotten off to a nice start this season before fading in the middle of the year, but he’s been pitching a lot better lately, not allowing a walk over his past 7.1 IP while also striking out 12 over that span. The WHIP has been an issue for much of the season


  • Fernando Cruz ranks 8th amongst all qualified relievers this season in K% with an impressive 34.1% rate (thanks to an elite splitter) and while the holds are few and far between, he does have one over the past week and could see a higher leverage role down the stretch with how well he has been pitching recently. Over his past 17.1 IP, Cruz has a 40% K rate (21.1% SwStr and 35.3% CSW rates), 2.55 ERA (2.51 SIERA) and 0.91 WHIP.
  • The Royals may have found a potential high-leverage bullpen option in James McArthur, who has been far and away their best reliever in September. McArthur is a big guy but he doesn’t overpower with his fastball, leaning more on his curveball and slider (similar to Scott Barlow). The Pirates have also found an interesting bullpen piece in Carmen Mlodzinski, although we could see him potentially start some guys next year and moving forward. For now, though, Mlodzinski has settled into a setup role in Pittsburgh as he’s also having a great September.



If you would like more daily reliever updates, please check out our Reliever Ranks series.


Rank Pitcher Change
1Robert StephensonT1-
2Matt Brash-
3Erik Swanson-
4José Alvarado-
5Bryan Abreu-
6A.J. Minter-
7Jason Adam+UR
8Mark Leiter Jr.-1
9Héctor Neris-
10Kevin Ginkel+2
11Andrew Nardi+2
12Griffin Jax
13Trevor Stephan-3
14Jeff Hoffman+1
15Joel Payamps+1
16Danny Coulombe+1
17Brooks Raley+2
18Reynaldo López+2
19Hunter Harvey+2
20Jason Foley+2
21Jordan Hicks+3
22Brusdar Graterol+3
23Tommy Kahnle-5
24Abner Uribe+7
25Taylor Rogers-2
26A.J. Puk
27Lucas Sims-1
28Ryan Brasier-
29Robert Suarez+7
30Caleb Thielbar-1
31Gregory Soto+3
33Sam Hentges+6
34Colin Poche+6
35Ben Joyce-3
36Joe Jiménez+1
37Seranthony Domínguez+6
38Tim Mayza+4
39Scott Barlow+21
40José Leclerc+21
41John Schreiber
42Ian Gibaut-1
44Joe Kelly+5
46Caleb Ferguson+13
47Matt Strahm+7
48Garrett Whitlock+10
49Pierce Johnson+1
50Chris Stratton+2
51Tyler Holton+6
52Fernando Cruz+15
53James McArthur+UR
54Kirby Yates-21
55Emilio Pagán+7
56Kendall Graveman+UR
57Luke Jackson+7
58Carmen Mlodzinski+22
59José Soriano+4
60Shawn Armstrong+15
61Andrew Kittredge
62Yimi García+10
63Matt Moore-15
64John King-11
65Jake Diekman+4
66David Robertson-10
67Dany Jiménez+9
68Jorge López+11
69Will Smith-23
70Garrett Crochet+UR
71Will Vest+UR
72Tom Cosgrove-4
73Steven Okert-8
74Casey Lawrence-4
75Eli Morgan-2
76Drew Smith+11
77Gabe Speier-3
78Ryan Borucki-1
79Nick Sandlin+6
80Ryan Thompson+UR
81Cionel Pérez
82Josh Winckowski-1
83Trevor Megill-5
84Aaron Bummer-2
85Trevor Richards-2
86Carlos Hernández+UR
87Alex Vesia+13
88Enyel De Los Santos+1
89Trent Thornton-5
90Kyle Nelson-4
91Phil Maton-3
92Brad Hand-2
93Rafael Montero-2
94Shintaro Fujinami+5
95DL Hall-2
96George Soriano-2
97Jordan Weems-2
98Alex Young+UR
99John Brebbia-2
100Phil Bickford-4

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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