March 2, 2019
For a variety of reasons, holds are hard to predict. A reliever needs to be good enough to get outs consistently, but not so good that he takes over as the closer. On this list, LOOGYs and great pitchers blocked by superstar closers get a bump, while players with a good chance to take over the ninth fall a bit. Pitchers in committees are heavily downgraded due to uncertainty, but they can grab a lot of holds if the committee evolves to feature someone else at the head.
The top tier is reserved for elite set-up guys with solid closers. While they are definitely save candidates in case of injury, they’re most likely to rack up holds in high-leverage eighth innings. There are three Yankees in this tier, which may seem excessive, but then again, they have a legendarily good bullpen and a team forecast to win 95+ games.
The main difference between the first and second tiers is that these guys have some question marks attached. Many have a chance to win the closer job themselves (Miller, Hirano) or play for a team that won’t win all that much (Hughes, Kela).
Tier three includes some pitchers who are already in a battle to close, so they may wind up getting saves rather than holds. It also includes some guys who don’t put up the best peripherals, but are still likely to get a good share of hold opportunities.
Tier four is where you find lefty specialists and pitchers on good teams who are a few steps removed from the closers role. They’ll have plenty of appearances, but may not be quite as consistent in picking up holds.