While the holds statistic is even harder to predict than saves for closers, the players we highlight today feature some sleeper setup men and some looking to reclaim glory they once had. The more likely an MLB team is to win, the more likely these following relief pitchers will be eligible to earn the holds that could be the difference between winning or losing in your fantasy league.
Waiver Wire Options For Holds
Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a weekly series on relief pitcher targets for holds. You can follow the entire series of holds analysis and sleepers to stay ahead of your competition.
Also be sure to check out our famous fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups list, which is broken down by every position with hot/trending players, and is updated every single day.
This week, some up-and-coming power arms that have potential for closing are establishing themselves on their teams as middle relievers as they progress to the backend of games. Some of these relievers will be critical to a team looking to make it to the postseason while others are just getting their feet wet.
7 holds, 1.23 ERA, 29.1 innings, 44 strikeouts (13.5 K/9), 0.89 WHIP
With the Phillies likely out of contention for postseason baseball, some young arms will get more opportunities in high leverage situations. 23-year-old Ken Giles appears to have a bright future in Philly. With a 97-mph fastball and a sharp slider, Ken Giles is keeping opponents hitting under .200. His 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings are very impressive for the rookie. Giles could potentially see himself closing for the Phillies in 2015, but for now he will get holds when he can, pitching in the seventh and eighth innings.
Eric O'Flaherty, Oakland Athletics
3 holds, 1.35 ERA, 13.1 innings, 12 strikeouts, 0.83 WHIP
After a successful Tommy John surgery, left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty is looking to return to form with his new team, the Oakland Athletics. Formerly with the Atlanta Braves, O’Flaherty finished his recovery and has joined the A’s in the midst of a very tight postseason race. Still sporting an effective sinker and slider, opponents are hitting .163 against him, and nearly 60% of the balls put in play are on the ground. Three holds is acceptable for his few appearances, but once he has fully established that he is over the elbow surgery, he will rack up the holds-- prior to the injury, O’Flaherty had two seasons in which he had over 30 holds apiece.
Brad Boxberger, Tampa Rays
15 holds, 1.80 ERA, 55.0 innings, 87 strikeouts (14.2 K/9), 0.78 WHIP
The Tampa Bay Rays are likely out of contention but that hasn't stopped Brad Boxberger from having a good season. Sporting an earned run average under 2.00 and a strikeout per nine innings over 14.0, Boxberger could have a future role as closer for the Rays. For now, the 26-year-old right-hander moved up from the sixth inning to the eighth inning, and that promotion is fully justified. With a 93-mph fastball and the signature changeup of effective Rays pitchers, Boxberger is holding opponents to a miniscule .144 batting average.
Sam Freeman, St. Louis Cardinals
9 holds, 2.51 ERA, 28.2 innings, 28 strikeouts, 1.50 WHIP
The St. Louis Cardinals have two primary left-handed pitchers in the bullpen, where Sam Freeman joins veteran Randy Choate. While Choate is primarily a specialist, looking to get out the best left-handed bat in the opposing lineup, Sam Freeman is capable of getting out both right-handed and left-handed bats. Coincidentally, Freeman’s splits are reversed: right-handed bats are hitting .227 against him while left-handed bats are hitting .294. He normally appears in the seventh inning, utilizing a fastball-changeup combination to strike out nearly a batter per inning and generate a 51.9% ground ball rate. He does the job for the Redbirds as they continue to contend for a spot in the postseason.
Neil Ramirez, Chicago Cubs
12 holds, 1.17 ERA, 30.2 innings, 39 strikeouts, 0.98 WHIP
The Chicago Cubs will be golfing in October, making now a good time for them to evaluate who is a part of their long-term plans and who isn’t. Reliever Neil Ramirez appears to be a good consideration for the future. Once a starting pitcher, Ramirez is effective out of the bullpen. He has an ERA approaching 1.00 and averages more than a strikeout per inning. Like many starter-turned-relievers, he still uses three pitches: a fastball, slider and changeup. And he uses them effectively-- opponent batting average against Ramirez is .174. He normally finds himself in games in the seventh or eighth inning. There’s no reason to imagine he is not a part of future success on the North Side, and he could help your fantasy team if you need a reliever for holds.
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