Top 30 Relievers for Holds Leagues

March 24, 2023

As baseball teams move more toward the ace-reliever model, holds are becoming a more popular scoring option for fantasy leagues. This list is for players who are not currently the closer for their team (although many may rise to that role over the season), but are still worth targeting in leagues which reward holds.  Current closers don’t appear on this list because anyone listed as a closer will likely be drafted anyway. Committees are always hard to judge on lists like this, but everyone in a committee takes a tiny hit in value here as some of their appearances will be save ops.

Tier I
James Karinchak
AJ Minter
Andres Munoz
Jorge Lopez

Normally this tier is for elite players who are completely blocked by an elite closer, but that list would be so short this year, that we expanded this tier to include several players who are likely to take over as closers as the year goes on. As long as they are set-up men, they are going to rack up holds, but don’t be surprised if they make the leap into the closers spot.

Tier II
Brusdar Graterol
Cionel Perez
Adam Ottavino
Erik Swanson
Jason Adam
Seranthony Dominguez
Geovanny Gallegos
David Robertson
Bryan Abreu
Andrew Chafin

The 2nd tier is a place for solid options who have a single question mark. That question mark is usually either a prominent role in a closer committee or regression/injury concerns. Expect a lot of holds out of this tier, but with a bit more variance than in tier 1.

Tier III
Yimi Garcia
Joe Kelly
Aaron Bummer
Rafael Montero
Joe Jiminez
Colin McHugh
Michael King
Joe Mantiply

The 3rd tier is where you’ll find a mix of less than elite options who still have potential for 20+ hold seasons either due to how their team uses the bullpen (Toronto/Atlanta), or by being a lower leverage option on a good team.

Tier IV
Taylor Rogers
Wil Crowe
Jose Cisnero
Caleb Theilbar
Matt Moore
John Schreiber
Matt Bush
Colin Poche

The 4th tier are mostly targets specifically for their value in providing saves/holds, and who may not help much in ratios. Think the stolen bases specialists of relievers. Here you’ll find some lefty specialists and also relievers on bad teams who are still likely to be involved in the late innings anytime their team does have a lead.  

Updated MLB Closer Depth Chart

Closer1st in line2nd in lineUpdatedCloser1st in line2nd in lineUpdated
KCBarlowStaumontChapman3/13/23PITBednarCrowede los Santos3/16/23

* = closer-by-committee

Top 15 Middle Relievers / Save Sleepers for 2023

March 22, 2023

Below are our top middle relievers/save sleepers for 2023. Please note that these rankings are based on traditional (saves only) leagues and are therefore weighted toward players with the best chances of getting save opportunities at some point this season.

1. David Robertson – The Mets’ bullpen is unsettled after the Edwin Diaz injury and although we have Adam Ottavino at the top of the hierarchy currently, the veteran David Robertson is certainly in the mix. The Mets should win a lot of games this year and there is chance Robertson could end up leading this bullpen if Ottavino falters or is used as a high leverage reliever prior to the 9th inning.

2. Jason Adam – Jason Adam had fantastic numbers last year including a 0.76 WHIP, which was good for third among qualified relievers. He had 8 saves last year and should have the opportunity to get close to double digit saves this year as one of the primary members of the expected Rays’ committee alongside Peter Fairbanks.

3. Michael Fulmer – Michael Fulmer signed with the Cubs this off-season and should compete for save chances alongside fellow newcomer Brad Boxberger. Fulmer has expressed a strong desire to claim the closer’s job and we think he is worth targeting after the primary closers are off the board as a potential cheap source of saves,

4. Andrez Muñoz – Andrez Muñoz struck out 96 batters in 65 innings last year while averaging about 100 MPH on his fastball. Munoz only recorded 4 saves last year versus Paul Sewald’s 20 saves but if Muñoz can stay healthy and pitch like he did last season, he has a good chance on improving that total.

5. Seranthony Dominguez – Seranthony Dominguez was one of the Phillies’ best relievers last year and proved he could close out games, finishing with 9 saves on the season. The Phillies brought in Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto this off-season but both of those guys have enough question marks that Dominguez could be worth a late round selection as somebody who could end up taking the closers’ job.

6. Jorge Lopez – After struggling as a starter, Jorge Lopez moved to the bullpen last year and was very successful in the role for the Orioles at the beginning of the season. Lopez was traded to the Twins mid-season and struggled a little bit after the trade. Jhoan Duran is the best reliever in the Twins bullpen and should see the majority of saves, but Duran will also likely have some nights where he will be used in a high leverage spot prior to the 9th inning and in those instances, Lopez is likely to end up with the save chance.

7. Jimmy Herget – Jimmy Herget shined in the Angels’ bullpen after the trade of closer Raisel Iglesias and finished the season with 9 saves. The Angels brought in veteran Carlos Estevez and he is expected to get the first shot at closing but Estevez is far from a shore thing and Herget could be in the mix for saves if he pitches like he did down the stretch last season.

8. Rafael Montero – The Astros brought back Rafael Montero this season after he excelled as a set-up man and back up closer to Ryan Pressly last season. Montero ended up with 14 saves last year and could be in line for double digit saves again this year since the Astros are expected to win a lot of games and Pressly needed a couple IL stints last year.

9. Brusdar Graterol – The Dodgers bullpen is wide open right now and Graterol has a chance to claim the closer’s role if he can stay healthy. Graterol saved four games last year and if he had been able to stay healthy, he could have established himself as the primary closer for the Dodgers.

10. A.J. Puk – The Marlins are another team with a lot of questions at the back-end of their bullpen. A.J. Puk is another starter turned reliever that had a lot of success out of the bullpen last year and he has a good chance at seeing save chances as the lefty in a potential committee.

11. Taylor Rogers – Taylor Rogers was leading the league in saves at the All-Star break last year and although he struggled for the remainder of the season, he is still a solid lefty with lots of closing experience. Giants manager Gabe Kapler likes to mix and match and that could lead to save chances for Rogers this season.

12. Jonathan Loaisiga – Jonathan Loaisiga battled injuries last year but finished the season strong. Clay Holmes is expected to get the first shot at closing but Holmes struggled in the second half of last season and Loaisiga could be an option to close if Holmes falters this season.

13. Aroldis Chapman – Aroldis Chapman missed time due to injuries last year and the results weren’t great when he was on the field but he struck out almost 100 batters two seasons ago. If he can regain some of that form, he could challenge for saves in Kansas City.

14. Hunter Harvey – Hunter Harvey posted some solid numbers for the Nationals last year and although he is clearly behind Kyle Finnegan, there are rumors that Finnegan may be used more in a fireman role this season. If Finnegan is not used as a traditional closer, Harvey could see save chances on nights when Finnegan is needed prior to the 9th inning.

15. Jose Cisnero – Jose Cisnero led the Tigers in appearances from 2020-2021 and although he missed some time last season, he proved to be a reliable reliever, finishing the season with an ERA of 1.08. He doesn’t have the upside of Alex Lange, but he is more consistent so if Lange struggles, Cisnero could be a good fall back option for the Tigers.

2023 Tiered Closer Rankings

The closer position seems especially volatile in 2023 after a significant injury to Edwin Diaz and Liam Hendriks was diagnosed with lymphoma. Diaz is likely to miss the entire season, while Hendriks is expected to miss at least a chunk of it, though it’s unknown how long he will be out. Best wishes to both studs on their recoveries!

This leaves the relief pitcher cupboard pretty bare up top, perhaps making these tiered rankings more valuable for you as you get ready for your drafts. If you’ve already drafted, let this guide you as you hit the waiver wire to start the season. Remember these rankings are based on traditional (5×5) leagues, so while WHIP and strikeouts are considered, holds are not. Stay tuned for our posts in the coming days where we’ll discuss middle relievers.

Tier 1
1. Emmanuel Clase, CLE
2. Devin Williams, MIL
3. Josh Hader, SD

Emmanuel Clase has emerged as the consensus top closer in the game, and last year’s numbers point to why: a 1.36 ERA, a 0.729 WHIP and 42 saves. The former Brewers duo rounds out the top three, with Milwaukee’s Devin Williams and his nasty changeup edging out former No. 1 closer Josh Hader, now with the Padres and coming off the worst season of his career (5.22 ERA, 1.28 WHIP in 56 games). Hader was dealing with some personal matters but re-emerged as a top-tier option down the stretch, finishing the regular season with 9.1 scoreless innings and 13 strikeouts against just one walk.

Tier 2
4. Jordan Romano, TOR
5. Ryan Pressly, HOU
6. Raisel Iglesias, ATL

This group features three steady veterans with guaranteed closer gigs on teams that are expected to be contenders. All could wind up being Tier 1-type closers by season’s end if they stay healthy.

Tier 3
7. Ryan Helsley, STL
8. Felix Bautista, BAL

This is a fun pair! Ryan Helsley and Felix Bautista are as electric as they come, but both carry some more uncertainty than the relievers ranked above them. Can Helsley (1.25 ERA, 0.742 WHIP) be as dominant again? And perhaps more important for this exercise, will he get the lion’s share of the team’s save chances, or will there be more sharing of the role with Giovanny Gallegos in 2023? Can Bautista repeat his success (2.19 ERA, 0.929 WHIP) and stay healthy? He has battled knee and shoulder ailments this month but recently made his spring debut.

Tier 4
9. Camilo Doval, SF
10. David Bednar, PIT
11. Clay Holmes, NYY
12. Kenley Jansen, BOS

This group should gather a ton of saves collectively, but each reliever has his own question marks. Will Gabe Kapler mix and match in the ninth even more with Taylor Rogers in the fold for the Giants? Can David Bednar stay healthy and collect a decent amount saves pitching for a bad Pirates club? Clay Holmes started strong in 2022 (1.31 ERA across 41.1 first half IP) but had a slower finish (4.84 ERA in the second half) — is he primed to hold the gig all season for the Yankees? Will this finally be the year the aging Kenley Jansen falters, or will he continue his run to the Hall of Fame? Also, the Red Sox might have their own issues contending this season, which could mean fewer save chances than Jansen is used to.

Tier 5
13 (tie). Alexis Diaz, CIN
13 (tie). Jhoan Duran, MIN
15. Pete Fairbanks, TB
16. Daniel Bard, COL
17. Scott Barlow, KC
18. Paul Sewald, SEA

Now we’re getting into some uncomfortable territory. In this group, Alexis Diaz and Daniel Bard appear to be locked into closer roles, but they both pitch for teams expected to disappoint in 2023. Jhoan Duran, Pete Fairbanks and Paul Sewald all pitch for teams we presume to be good, but they are in more “modern” bullpens where high-leverage situations can have them called upon before the ninth inning. And finally there’s Scott Barlow, who we presume is “the guy” but the Royals also employ Josh Staumont and Aroldis Chapman, with the latter possible to receive save chances to boost his trade value.

Tier 6
19. Craig Kimbrel, PHI
20. Evan Phillips, LAD
21. Alex Lange, DET
22. Jose Leclerc, TEX
23. Adam Ottavino, NYM

There are a lot of question marks here with performance (Alex Lange, Jose Leclerc), the role (Evan Phillips, Adam Ottavino) or perhaps both (Craig Kimbrel). If you target one of these closers, do so as a third option. Try to lock down at least two of our top 18 first.

Tier 7
24. Kyle Finnegan, WAS
25. Kendall Graveman, CHW

Kyle Finnegan is likely to share the role again in Washington for a bad Nationals team as manager Dave Martinez mixes and matches, potentially using Finnegan for higher-leverage situations early in games. Kendall Graveman, meanwhile, is no surefire bet to lock down the White Sox role given the other options currently there (Joe Kelly, Aaron Bummer and Reynaldo Lopez). Plus, Liam Hendriks could return at some point, too.

Tier 8
26. Matt Barnes, MIA
27 (tie). Brad Boxberger, CHC
27 (tie). Carlos Estevez, LAA
27 (tie). Andrew Chafin, ARI
30. Trevor May, OAK

No one in this group has a truly firm role on the job and they are in the messiest bullpens in the big leagues. It would not be surprising to see any or all of Matt Barnes, Brad Boxberger, Carlos Estevez or Andrew Chafin usurped in the season’s first week. Trevor May might be the most secure closer here to start 2023, but he pitches for what could be the league’s worst team and was not especially good in 2022 (5.04 ERA, 1.44 WHIP).

2023 NL West Preview

March 16, 2023

Arizona Diamondbacks – Folks probably aren’t going to be coveting any Arizona relievers in any fantasy drafts this spring, especially when manager Torey Lovullo made it clear that he won’t be naming a closer. Lefty Andrew Chafin signed a one-year deal and has the ability to close. Mark Melancon is still around, and he’s certainly got plenty of ninth-inning experience, though he’s currently nursing an injury. 2022 All-Star Joe Mantiply is also back. One other name to watch is Scott McGough, who saved 38 games for the Yakult Swallows in Japan last year.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: *Chafin | Melancon | Mantiply.
* = closer-by-committee 
Holds candidates: Melancon, Mantiply, McGough.

Colorado Rockies – Daniel Bard remains as the Rockies’ closer, but the rest of the bullpen is intriguing with newcomers Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand expected to be in the late-innings mix. Justin Lawrence is also someone that has a good chance to pitch in high-leverage spots. One name to keep an eye on is Tyler Kinley, who was having a terrific season in 2022 before suffering a season-ending injury. He is expected to return midseason.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Bard | Johnson | Hand.
Holds candidates: Johnson, Hand, Lawrence, Brent Suter.

Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers head into 2023 without a designated closer, with Blake Treinen not expected to pitch this year and Daniel Hudson set to miss the early part of the season. Expect folks like Evan Phillips, Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol and Caleb Ferguson to be in the mix for saves, with Phillips likely having the slight edge on the group.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: *Phillips | Vesia | Graterol.
* = closer-by-committee
Holds candidates: Vesia, Graterol, Ferguson

San Diego Padres – The Padres will begin the year with a stable corps of high-leverage relievers, led by closer Josh Hader and setup man Robert Suarez. Luis Garcia and Tim Hill will compete for the seventh-inning role, with Drew Pomeranz potentially factoring into late-inning plans one he returns from injury.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Hader | Suarez | Garcia.
Holds candidates: Suarez, Garcia, Hill.

San Francisco Giants – The Giants enter 2023 with Camilo Doval as their closer after he recorded 27 saves a year ago. Behind him are the Rogers twins, Taylor and Tyler, as well as John Brebbia. Of note is that the Giants signed former Atlanta closer Luke Jackson, who will miss at least the first month while he finishes his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Jackson will likely compete for holds once he is healthy.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Doval | Taylor Rogers | Brebbia.
Holds candidates: Taylor/Tyler Rogers, Brebbia.

2023 NL Central Preview

March 16, 2023

Chicago Cubs – The Cubs enter 2023 without a top option at closer, and manager David Ross has said that while he expects someone to establish themselves as the leader in the bullpen, the competition is wide open this spring. The Cubs signed two free agents with closing experience in Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer in the offseason, and they will have the inside track to saves right out of the gate. Also in the mix will be Brandon Hughes, who provides a left-handed option, and was the head of the Cubs committee to end the year. We think that Boxberger will get the first look at saves as the slightly more established option, but Michael Fulmer is younger with more upside and is probably the longer-term option. Rowan Wick and Adbert Alzoley provide some depth in what should be a solid bullpen. Another name to watch is Codi Heuer, who missed all of 2022 after Tommy John surgery, but is ahead of his recovery schedule and might be a decent holds option when he returns.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Boxberger* | Fulmer | Hughes.
Holds candidates: Fulmer, Hughes, Wick, Alzoley.

Cincinnati Reds – The Reds had arguably the worst bullpen in the majors last year, but one bright spot was Alexis Diaz, who ended the year firmly in control of the closer role in the Queen City. Manager David Bell has already said he will be the closer to start 2023, but he may get used before the 9th in high leverage spots. Behind Diaz is a bit of a mess with Lucas Sims handling the primary set up duties, while Buck Farmer and Reiver Sanmartin handling the middle innings. Tejay Antone and Tony Santillian will likely find themselves in the middle reliever mix as well, but both will likely begin the year on the IL, with Santillian a bit closer to returning. We expect Diaz to be the top choice at closer for the Reds all year, and while they may not win many games, Diaz should rack up most of the saves when they do.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Diaz | Sims | Farmer.
Holds candidates: Sims, Farmer, Sanmartin, Antone (IL), Santillian.

Milwaukee Brewers – After spending years as the closer in the most reliable bullpen in baseball, Josh Hader was traded out of Milwaukee, leaving Devin Williams at the helm. Williams picked up where Hader left off, recording 9 saves in August-September and turning in a K/9 over 14. The Brewers have been a model of consistency in their bullpen rolls, and 2023 looks like it will be no different, with Williams as the clear closer for the Brewers, trade acquisition Matt Bush as the primary set up man, Peter Strzelecki in the 7th inning and Hoby Milner as the lefty specialist. Williams is as safe a closer as anybody, and should be one of the top options league wide.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Williams | Bush | Strzelecki.
Holds candidates: Bush, Strzelecki, Milner.

Pittsburgh Pirates – If the Reds weren’t the worst bullpen in 2023, it was probably the Pirates, who are now on year 8 of the 5 year rebuilding plan. Like the Reds, the Pirates also saw the emergence of a top closing option in David Bednar, who fought off an early committee to take the reins of the bullpen and never really looked back. Bednar is joined by Wil Crowe, who had an excellent season going before falling apart in August and September, and Yerry De Los Santos, who has showed flashes of being a top flight reliever, but has struggled with consistency. Another option is Duane Underwood Jr. who has excelled at keeping the ball in the park, but is otherwise unspectacular. A pair of Colins, Holderman and Selby, have a chance of making the roster out of spring training, and look like solid relief prospects, but they are better left until they have secured a major league role. Overall, Bednar is a solid choice as the clear closer on a bad team, but he also has a high risk of being traded as he enters his arbitration years, which means the Pirates bullpen is a good one to steer clear of.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Bednar | Crowe | De Los Santos.
Holds candidates: Crowe, De Los Santos, Underwood.

St. Louis Cardinals – Ryan Helsley emerged as one of the best relievers in baseball last year and finished the season with a sparkling 1.25 ERA with a 13.09 K/9. Helsley’s job is safe, but he does have a pretty large assembly of talent behind him. Giovanny Gallegos spent a large chunk of the year as the closer in St. Louis, despite eventually yielding the job to Helsley. Gallegos will return as the primary set up man and the Cardinals have shown they trust him in high leverage spots. Jordan Hicks and Genesis Cabrera were solid options for the Cardinals in 2022 and they return this year, likely to similar roles. Another option is Andre Pallante has shown a lot of flexibility with the Cardinals as well, but we hope we get to see if Guillermo Zuniga can bring his 102 MPH heat from the WBC to the majors.

Starting 2023 hierarchy: Helsley | Gallegos | Cabrera.
Holds candidates: Gallegos, Cabrera, Hicks, Pallante.