Hold the Line – Relievers

Almost two weeks into the 2017 baseball season and the view of each clubs bullpen is starting to become clear…unless you’re the Oakland A’s. Even as some closer roles are still undecided, it’s becoming clear who is in line to get holds for each team.

While this article has the most value for folks in holds leagues, there’s reason to read on if your league doesn’t count holds. A few weeks ago I wrote about how 3 good relievers could easily get you the combined stats of an ace. Most of the guys included in this article are of that ilk. Guys with high K/9 and low ratios that will do nothing but help you staff.

You’ll probably notice a few teams have several players on this list, and that’s because the teams that have had the most close ballgames will have the most holds (seems obvious enough). So you’ll see a team like the Rockies have several guys on this list as they’ve been in 6 games won by less than 2 runs so far this season.

Let’s take a look at the holds market, and who is leading the way. Stats at time of writing…

The Frontrunners

Player Team Holds Ks ERA WHIP
Pedro Strop Cubs 4 5 4.91 1.64
Adam Ottavino Rockies 4 8 1.93 1.29
Carlos Estevez Rockies 3 5 1.80 0.80
Luke Gregerson Astros 3 5 10.13 2.06
Koda Glover Nationals 3 1 4.50 1.25
Heath Hembree Red Sox 3 3 5.40 1.20
Brad Brach Orioles 3 5 0.00 1.00

So here’s all the relievers with 3 or more holds at the moment. Pedro Strop is leading the way for the Cubs. The Rockies have two on the list with Estevez and Ottavino, the former I wrote about in my Elite Relievers article. Colorado has a great bullpen, and you should see these too towards the top of this list all season long.

Gregerson, who has been a holds MACHINE in his career (172 holds since 2009), is off to a rough start. His ratios are ballooned due to ONE bad outing this season where he gave up 6 runs in one-third of an inning. He’s not surrendered a run in any othe appearance.  Don’t let those numbers fool you.

Koda Glover, who was thought to be the closer for the Nats before being skipped over for Blake Treinen, is off to a good start in the setup roll. Treinen hasn’t been rock-solid and no one knows how long the leash will be. Glover could wind up closing out ballgames soon.

Heath Hembree has been humming along for the Red Sox. Their bullpen situation is sure to change with the return of Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg. Hembree may lose some of those high-leverage situations so this is a situation to keep an eye on.

Brad Brach has been stellar so far this season with a clean sheet on runs, and 3 holds so far setting up Zach McAllister. Brach was ELITE last year (79 IP, 92Ks, 24 Holds, 2.05 ERA) and is continuing his dominance in 2017.


Best of the Rest

Player Team Holds Ks ERA WHIP
Mike Dunn Rockies 2 8 0.00 0.60
Ryan Madson A’s 2 3 0.00 1.29
Hector Neris Phillies 2 5 0.00 0.69
Daniel Hudson Pirates 2 5 3.68 1.93
Will Harris Astros 2 3 0.00 0.64
Tyler Duffey Twins 2 3 0.00 0.67

To continue our unintended Rockies-themed article, Mike Dunn is another solid piece to the Rox bullpen. He’s typically been the first guy out of the pen, so you may see Dunn occasionally go for more than your typical inning. Not listed above are the two WINS Dunn has earned also this season. Bonus!

Ryan ‘Maddog’ Madson, former closer, is firmly entrinched as the A’s setup man, along with whoever ISN’T closing games. Is it Doolittle? Is it Casilla? Who knows? I do know that Madson will be getting the holds.

Hector Neris made a case to be the closer for the Phils early and was relegated to the setup role. Now that the job seems to be getting away from Jenmar Gomez it sounds like Joaquin Benoit is getting a turn in the 9th. That’s fine with me since we know Neris will still be getting the holds.

Daniel Hudson is the understudy to Holds All-World Teamer Tony Watson. Watson was THE elite Holds guy for several seasons, and now he’s taken over the 9th. Hudson was an uber-prospect with a pedegree who never found much success starting. Pirates should be in many tight games this year giving Hudson a chance to impress.

Will Harris has been an elite hold-guy for a few seasons now. He was a closer briefly when the ‘stros were between Giles/Gregerson issues last year. I think you’ll see another high K/9 effort out of Harris. He should be owned everywhere. It’s criminal he isn’t.

Tyler Duffey has had a decent start to his season. Two holds and 0.00 ERA is nice, but I included him on this article for a specific reason. Duffey is one of a few hold-guys (Shane Greene is another who comes to mind) who have SP elligibility. What does this mean for your team? On days you don’t have a starter going in your SP spot, you can slide Duffey into the SP slot and still have room for additional relievers. Instead of 6 relievers, you’re now starting 7. This may not seem like much, but as a fantasy owner I’m looking for every edge, no matter how small.

Maybe I’m the only guys who loads up on more relievers than starters, but I’m a firm believer in premium innings. Typically relievers give you more clean innings. No hits, no runs, 2-3Ks. Obviously there’s a risk to this, as the Gregerson 6-run implosion illuastrates. One bad outing can wreck their ratios for a while.

I’ll have another article updating the Holds List in about a month. We’ll get a few more weeks of action under our belts and we’ll see who is trending up or down. Until then, keep those ratios down!

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