We’re already ranked starters and position players, now it’s time for relievers, beginning with the Top Relievers For Holds in 2016.
Before jumping in, it’s important to take a moment to discuss holds strategy for those tackling the stat for the first time. If you’re in a 6×6 league with holds and an additional hitter rate stat, you should punt saves, stack strong bats that excel in that extra category, and cram as many setup men into your lineup as possible to do work in holds, ERA, WHIP – IP limit in both H2Hs and roto aside. I absolutely hate booting a category in any roto but with 6×6 it is a much more feasible option, and if you get wild with setup men you’re bound to lock up some saves along the way. It’s tough to label an ideal strategy for all situations since optimal play is heavily dictated by the specific league setup, but note that closers take a pretty big hit in value with holds in play.
I’ve gone through and analyzed the holds situation for every team in the majors entering 2016. Keep in mind, the order of the setup men below shouldn’t be viewed as a strict ranking. After Watson things get a bit murky. The beauty of holds is that the options are fairly deep, plus studly relievers always come out of the woodwork, and you can be fairly strong in that category without spending too much. Let’s get to it.
Tony Watson (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Elite elite. They say middle relievers don’t get the props they deserve but Tony is a name brand. The issue there is you’ll have to pay, potentially overpay, if you want him. He led the league by a pretty wide margin with 42 holds in 2015. Expect another 40+ in 2016. Also a fan of Arquimedes Caminero.
Kevin Siegrist (St. Louis Cardinals) – The Cards happily put the 8th inning in his hands and didn’t hesitate to throw him out in the 9th when Rosenthal was resting. Jordan Walden should be healthy when the season starts, and he also has stud potential, and there will be more than enough holds to go around in St. Louis. Siegs flashed greatness in 39.2 major league innings in 2013 but 2014 was a disaster due to bad health and lack of command. Starters turned relievers can generally handle a heavier workload so the 74.2 IP in 2015 shouldn’t really scare you, especially since he pitched better in the 2nd half despite a higher ERA.
Darren O’Day (Baltimore Orioles) – Only 18 holds in 2015 but he should cross the 20 hold threshold this season. They love Darren in B-More and for a very good reason. He has a sub 1.00 WHIP the last four seasons combined and his strikeout rate keeps rising.
Pedro Strop (Chicago Cubs) – Strop has collected 20+ holds in three out of the last four seasons with a filthy slider that makes up for his control issues. Justin Grimm could get the call occasionally but Pedro is the main guy in the 8th. Adam Warren is a wildcard but he should be more of a long reliever and occasional spot starter.
Joe Smith (Los Angeles) – Smitty had a bit of a down year because of a rough 2nd half but the Angels trust him and he should continue forcing groundballs in the 8th. He’s a lock for top 10 in holds.
Keone Kela (Texas Rangers) – Kela is 22 year old flamethrower who cruised through the minor league system. He relies on near triple digit heat and an excellent curve that had a 27.1% swinging strike rate last season. Nasty. Sam Dyson will likely get his fair share of holds as well.
Joaquin Benoit (Seattle Mariners) – The old man has been dominant the last six seasons. He is currently dealing with some back and hamstring tightness but should be fine once the season starts. Doesn’t have eye-popping stuff but he does work and consistently finishes each season with a remarkably low BABIP. There is risk since he is 38, and if Cishek implodes he will likely get the 9th, but I think it is safe to expect another studly season. Plus the move to spacious Safeco makes life easier.
Roberto Osuna (Toronto Blue Jays) – Osuna started in the Mexican League, was signed by the Jays as a starter, got TJ in 2013, yadayada, jumped from high A ball to the bigs and dominated. K rate should hover around 10 K/9 because of a fastball that nears triple digits and a solid change and slider. Always need to be careful when it comes to small sample sizes but he looks like the real deal. The problem is Toronto’s offense is unreal and they may blow teams out too often for Osuna to rack up a ton of holds. Osuna can toss more than one inning in an appearance and from what I’ve read most seem to believe Toronto prefers some flexibility with his usage leading Drew Storen to get the 9th.
Kevin Jepsen (Minnesota Twins) – Jepsen spent most of his career setting up with the Angels and then split 2015 between the Rays and then Twins. Probably would have finished top 5 in holds last season if Perkins didn’t fall apart. Minnesota should be much better this season as well. Smart vet gets it done although the walk rate is a bit high.
Carson Smith/Koji Uehara (Boston Red Sox) – Koji is on the wrong side of 40. While he is expected to be ready at the start of the season I’m putting my money on Carson. Smith is moving to a more hitter friendly park but it shouldn’t hurt his value much. Superstud sinker and slider.
Luke Gregerson (Houston Astros) – Greggy is dealing with some oblique soreness so he may need some extra time to get into a groove, but he has been steadily above average his whole career. Highest ERA was his rookie year in 2009 which was a very serviceable 3.24. Will Harris will also get a fair share of holds now that Neshek is declining.
Alex Colome/Steven Geltz (Tampa Bay Rays) – Colome has been great out of the pen, often going 1+ innings last season. Geltz showed me a little somethin somethin last year too. I expect both to get their fair share of holds with solid rate stats. Tampa Bay is pretty decent, but more importantly they have a strong staff with a mediocre offense so the dubs should generally be close.
Bryan Shaw (Cleveland Indians) – Shaw is a horse who gets a ton of appearances. Cleveland has trusted him with the 8th the last couple years and that should continue into 2016. His K rate is pretty meh so not as valuable in rotos, but Shaw gets it done and is a lock for 20+ holds.
Tyler Clippard (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Clips saw a drop in K% and a rise in BB% but still did his thing. I’m a bit worried he will get hurt by the long ball in Zona, but he will still rack up holds. Daniel Hudson will get his too.
Kevin Quackenbush (San Diego Padres) – Was expecting Quack to build off of his strong 2014 but he took a step back last season. The breakout might not happen but he’s a solid arm and should control the 8th now that Maurer is in the roto. Or he could close if Rodney craps out. Drew Pomeranz is another decent arm that will get some holds.
Addison Reed/Antonio Bastardo/Hansel Robles (New York Mets) – Addi Reed was supposed to be the guy in Zona but he fell apart and lost his job. Looked great in New York and is likely the #2 behind Familia. Bastardo is also a bit of a stud. Smart money is probably on Reed to get the most holds but Hansel is probably my favorite out of the bunch. Robles developed a stupid mid 90s slider at some point last season and the upside is insane.
Shawn Kelley/Trevor Gott/Oliver Perez (Washington Nationals) – The Nats rebuilt their pen in the offseason. Kelley will man the 8th most days but Gott is a strong young arm and Ollie is a quality lefty specialist who will also pitch in the 8th occasionally.
Pedro Baez/Yimi Garcia (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Two young studs finished 2015 with near identical ERAs at 3.35 and 3.34 respectively, and locked down 11 holds each. Hard to say who will get more high leverage 8th inning action, both are decent backend options. J.P. Howell might end up with close to double digit holds as he dominates lefties.
Ryan Madson (Oakland Athletics) – Madson is 35 but he didn’t pitch 2012-2014 so is a bit fresher than your average 35 year old. Looked great last season and should lock down the 8th behind Doolittle. Might compete with Fernando Rodriguez for holds.
Milwauke Brewers – Will Smith and Jeffress are competing for the 9th, whoever loses will be a strong setup man.
Philadelphia Phillies – Bad team and ugly pen, no thanks