The Hold Up 9/23: Ranking the Top 100 Relievers for Holds Every Thursday

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

While Aaron Ashby has been hit and miss in his four starts this season, he has been quite good coming out of the bullpen and looks locked into that role heading into the playoffs. Since being recalled in August, Ashby has a 1.42 ERA and .75 WHIP with 28 K’s over 25.1 IP. He’s been even better in the month of September serving in a relief only role, and while he only has two holds, his usage can still help your ratios and strikeout numbers a la Collin McHugh. Ashby has been a bat missing machine in his 14.1 relief innings, with a 17.2% SwStr rate and 40% CSW, second only to Lucas Sims over that time. I like him this weekend against the left-handed heavy Mets, but next week could be a bit dicier as the team goes on the road to St. Louis and then wrap up the season in Los Angeles to face the Dodgers.




  • At this point in the season when it comes to holds I think it’s best just to ride the hot hand. That certainly applies to two up and down flame throwers in Génesis Cabrera and Josh Staumont. Cabrera has yet to allow a run in September and has seven games left against the Cubs. Staumont has allowed just two runs this month and has series with each of the remaining AL Central teams not from Chicago.
  • The same applies to this pair of lefties, Jake Diekman and José Alvarado, who possess huge strikeout upside but with that, comes control issues. While Sergio Romo struggles in September, Diekman is coming off a great week but has six games remaining against the Astros. Alvarado has only issued one walk over the past two and half weeks and should be the Phillies’ secondary setup option the rest of the way.


  • Two pitchers I was extremely high on entering 2021 who had their issues early in the season have looked much more like themselves lately. While he was missing the same swing and miss stuff he possessed last season, Tyler Duffey has been a different pitcher since the start of August with a 2.65 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 36% K rate. Tanner Rainey was so bad earlier in the season he was sent to AAA for about two months. Now he’s back, throwing harder and missing bats again with 2.2 perfect innings and six strikeouts in September.
  • This brings us to two pitchers that despite their massive upside at one point this season (or last), aren’t great bets for the last week of the season. Nick Anderson’s velo is down and he just hasn’t been the same pitcher we are used to (6.8% SwStr rate). Matt Barnes hasn’t looked the same since his return to the Red Sox bullpen either and his velo is all of a sudden way down as well. We’re just about out of time waiting for these guys to turn the corner.



Rank Pitcher Change
1Craig KimbrelT1-
2Blake Treinen-
3Devin Williams-
4Paul Sewald+2
6Kendall Graveman-2
7Diego Castillo-
8Chad Green-
9Anthony Bender-
10Aaron Bummer-
11Héctor Neris-
12J.P. Feyereisen+1
13Collin McHugh+6
14Michael Kopech+3
15Tim Mayza+10
16Luis García+6
17Tyler Matzek+3
18Lucas Sims+8
19Génesis Cabrera+16
20Josh Staumont+16
21Luke Jackson
22Trevor May+2
23Brad Boxberger-2
24Jake Diekman+16
25Aaron Loup+2
26Alex Vesia+2
27Corey Knebel+2
28Ryne Stanek+3
29Garrett Crochet+3
30Seth Lugo-15
31Michael Lorenzen+2
32José Alvarado+13
33Jake Cousins+6
34JT Chargois+12
35Alex Reyes+12
36Tyler Duffey+15
37Aaron Ashby+UR
38Tanner Rainey+UR
39Phil Bickford-9
40Codi Heuer-2
41Nick Anderson
42Matt Barnes+UR
43Julian Merryweather-2
44Pierce Johnson-10
45Joe Kelly-8
46Josh Taylor-4
47Richard Rodríguez-4
48Jhoulys Chacín-4
49Daniel Hudson-1
50Sergio Romo-1
51Adam Cimber+1
52Emilio Pagán+1
53Archie Bradley+2
54Bryan Shaw+2
55Jake Brentz+6
56Chris Martin+1
57Spencer Patton+1
58Steve Cishek+1
59T.J. McFarland+1
60Brooks Raley+3
61A.J. Minter
63Casey Sadler+5
64Juan Minaya+5
65Kyle Funkhouser+29
66Trevor Richards+UR
67Andrés Machado+10
69Anthony Banda+UR
70Alex Lange+UR
71Tim Hill-6
72Jarlín García-6
73Tyler Kinley+UR
74Michael King+UR
75Jordan Sheffield+UR
76Cole Sulser+UR
77Yusmeiro Petit-6
78Noé Ramirez-
79Brusdar Graterol+9
80Joely Rodríguez+2
82Austin Adams-32
83Brent Suter-16
84Brett Martin-8
85Caleb Thielbar-12
86Wandy Peralta-11
87Domingo Tapia-8
88Camilo Doval-8
89Craig Stammen-5
90Zack Littell-9
91Adbert Alzolay-8
92Sam Coonrod-7
93Adam Morgan-7
94Austin Warren-5
95Austin Davis-5
96Sam Howard-5
97Richard Bleier-4
98Cristian Javier-3
99Chad Kuhl-3
100Robert Stephenson-3


Photo by Larry Radloff/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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