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2020 Saves+Holds Rankings - Fantasy Baseball Mixed Leagues


To any reader who thinks they don't have a voice here at RotoBaller, let it be known that this article came from a simple Reddit comment about how those seeking Saves+Holds reliever ranks were often overlooked. Poof, and here we are. Allow me, Nick Mariano, 2018's most accurate draft expert and sharer of names with the best reliever of all-time, to supercharge your bullpen.

While the closer's role is important, some managers are moving their best arm into a flexible role while shuffling who gets the ninth. Saves+Holds leagues help fantasy leagues reward the best arms regardless of the inning, though it still favors closers in a vacuum. But the most important thing to note for 2020 is a new rule that changes how relievers can be used. Starting in 2020, *all pitchers* must face a minimum of three batters per appearance or pitch to the end of the half-inning. While Rob Manfred has ID'd short RP appearances as a scourge, one-batter relief appearances reached a 13-year low in 2019 per SI's Tom Verducci. That same article says, "The proposed rule would eliminate one mid-inning pitching change every three or four games." So, be reasonable and don't move the goalposts too much.

Reminder: A hold is recorded when a relief pitcher enters with a lead of three runs or less, or with the tying run on-deck, at the plate, or on base, and maintains that lead while recording at least one out. Read on and you'll see where I rank each player, what tier they're in, and their "Team Rank" (spot in their team's bullpen hierarchy.) I will make updates and note the most recent day of a change here.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Draft Kit, premium rankings, projections, player outlooks, top prospects, dynasty rankings, 15 in-season lineup tools, and over 200 days of expert DFS research. Sign Up Now!

 

Save+Hold Relief Pitcher Ranks - Mixed Leagues (January)

In case you missed it, our very own "Big Pick Nick" Mariano was named the #1 overall most accurate industry expert ranker for the 2018 season.

Rank Tier Player Team Team Rank
1 1 Josh Hader MIL 1
2 1 Kirby Yates SD 1
3 1 Aroldis Chapman NYY 1
4 1 Liam Hendriks OAK 1
5 1 Roberto Osuna HOU 1
6 1 Nick Anderson TB 2
7 1 Ryan Pressly HOU 2
8 2 Taylor Rogers MIN 1
9 2 Brad Hand CLE 1
10 2 Ken Giles TOR 1
11 2 Will Smith ATL 2
12 2 Kenley Jansen LAD 1
13 2 Emilio Pagan TB 1
14 2 Edwin Diaz NYM 1
15 2 Giovanny Gallegos STL 1
16 2 Hector Neris PHI 1
17 2 Seth Lugo NYM 2
18 2 Craig Kimbrel CHC 1
19 3 Raisel Iglesias CIN 1
20 3 Brandon Workman BOS 1
21 3 Zack Britton NYY 2
22 3 Adam Ottavino NYY 3
23 3 Hansel Robles LAA 1
24 3 Jose Leclerc TEX 1
25 3 Alex Colome CWS 1
26 3 Keone Kela PIT 1
27 3 Sergio Romo MIN 2
28 3 Sean Doolittle WAS 1
29 3 Ian Kennedy KC 1
30 3 Archie Bradley ARI 1
31 3 Matt Barnes BOS 2
32 3 Mark Melancon ATL 1
33 3 Will Harris WAS 2
34 4 Michael Lorenzen CIN 2
35 4 Tommy Kahnle NYY 4
36 4 Craig Stammen SD 2
37 4 Yusmeiro Petit OAK 4
38 4 Aaron Bummer CWS 2
39 4 Andrew Miller STL 2
40 4 Scott Oberg COL 1
41 4 Seranthony Dominguez PHI 2
42 4 Dellin Betances NYM 3
43 4 Andres Munoz SD 3
44 5 James Karinchak CLE 3
45 5 Rowan Wick CHC 2
46 5 Pedro Baez LAD 2
47 5 Colin Poché TB 5
48 5 Joe Jimenez DET 1
49 5 Diego Castillo TB 4
50 5 Ty Buttrey LAA 2
51 5 Emmanuel Clase TEX 3
52 5 Drew Pomeranz SD 4
53 5 Daniel Hudson WAS 3
54 5 Kevin Ginkel ARI 2
55 6 Trevor May MIN 3
56 6 Amir Garrett CIN 3
57 6 Tony Watson SF 1
58 6 Nick Wittgren CLE 2
59 6 Matt Magill SEA 1
60 6 Joshua James HOU 3
61 6 Jose Alvarado TB 3
62 6 Carlos Martinez STL 3
63 6 Oliver Drake TB 6
64 6 John Gant STL 4
65 6 Adam Morgan PHI 3
66 7 Josh Taylor BOS 3
67 7 Trevor Gott SF 2
68 7 Tyler Duffey MIN 5
69 7 Tyler Clippard MIN 4
70 7 Joe Kelly LAD 4
71 7 Chad Green NYY 5
72 7 Kyle Crick PIT 3
73 7 Steve Cishek CWS 3
74 7 Rafael Montero TEX 2
75 7 Freddy Peralta MIL 3
76 7 Blake Treinen LAD 3
77 7 Lou Trivino OAK 2
78 7 Sam Tuivailala SEA 2
79 7 Luke Jackson ATL 4
80 7 Trey Wingenter SD 5
81 8 Ryne Stanek MIA 1
82 8 Anthony Bass TOR 2
83 8 Marcus Walden BOS 4
84 8 Darwinzon Hernandez BOS 5
85 8 Mychal Givens BAL 1
86 8 Brent Suter MIL 2
87 8 Jordan Hicks STL 5
88 8 Shane Greene ATL 3
89 8 Chris Martin ATL 5
90 8 Tyler Rogers SF 3
91 8 Tim Hill KC 2
92 8 Jake Diekman OAK 5
93 9 Scott Barlow KC 3
94 9 Shawn Armstrong BAL 2
95 9 Tanner Rainey WAS 4
96 9 Joe Smith HOU 4
97 9 Corey Knebel MIL 4
98 9 Corbin Burnes MIL 5
99 9 Adam Cimber CLE 4
100 9 Wade Davis COL 2
101 9 Richard Rodriguez PIT 2
102 9 Keynan Middleton LAA 3
103 9 Hector Rondon ARI 3
104 9 Jairo Diaz COL 3
105 9 Jarlin Garcia MIA 2
106 9 Chris Devenski HOU 5
107 10 Joakim Soria OAK 3
108 10 Hunter Harvey BAL 3
109 10 Carl Edwards Jr. SEA 3
110 10 Jose Alvarez PHI 4
111 10 Darren O'Day BAL 6
112 10 Trevor Richards TB 7
113 10 Carlos Estevez COL 4
114 10 Evan Marshall CWS 4
115 10 Brad Brach NYM 4
116 10 Jandel Gustave SF 4
117 10 Hunter Strickland WAS 5
118 10 Matt Strahm SD 5
119 10 Yoan Lopez ARI 4
120 10 Wilmer Font TOR 3
121 10 Brandon Brennan SEA 4
122 10 Pedro Strop N/A N/A
123 10 Buck Farmer DET 2
124 10 Jose Quijada MIA 3
125 10 Jose Cisnero DET 3
126 10 Jeremy Jeffress N/A N/A
127 10 Adam Conley MIA 4
128 10 Andrew Kittredge TB 8


Tier One

Josh Hader was electric in 2018, and many metrics improved in 2019 but were overshadowed by an issue with homers. His swinging-strike rate soared, from 19% to 22.7%, which yielded a 47.8% strikeout rate -- over six percentage points higher than the next-best qualified RP, Nick Anderson. His 43 Saves + Holds tally led the Majors and this format means you can get away from his being left-handed.

He did this while trimming his walk rate to 6.9% from 9.8% and his .232 BABIP was close to the career .228 mark, but homers don’t factor into that. His 21.4% HR/FB rate and 1.78 HR/9 did all it could to inflate his 2.62 ERA. Strikeouts and homers, the 2019 way. Still, his 1.78 SIERA made him the only qualified RP with a mark south of 2.00 and I’m here for his being the first off the board.

I won’t begrudge anyone for going with Yates over Hader, as his 41 SV+HLD barely trailed Hader while his 1.19 ERA was far cleaner. Still, we know the surface stats for a reliever are highly volatile. Yates’ 2.05 SIERA was second to Hader’s rate, while his 41.6% strikeout rate was third-best, just behind Nick Anderson.

I don’t think I can dance around addressing Anderson anymore. He was simply lights out after joining the Rays. 2019 was his first MLB season, and Anderson was inconsistent in Miami, throwing more breaking balls instead of ripping into hitters with his elite heat. Then he was traded to Tampa Bay at the deadline and proceeded to log a whopping 41/2 K/BB rate and 2.11 ERA (1.03 SIERA!) across 21 ⅓ IP.

Hendriks’ stock gets more comfortable with Treinen going to LAD. His average fastball velocity went from 94-95 MPH to 96.5 MPH, his curveball rose from 82 MPH to 84 MPH and the rate at which he threw it soared, from 1.8% in ‘18 to 7.8%. The added heat helped, as hitters pulled a career-low 26.5% of batted balls off of him, which eased the damage done by the 49.5% fly-ball rate.

The other non-closer worthy of the elite Tier One label is Ryan Pressly, who put up stats nearly identical to teammate Roberto Osuna. His 72 strikeouts in 54 ⅓ IP offer a better K/9 than Osuna’s 73 K’s in 65 frames, while also putting up a top-10 SV+HLD total for 2019 (34) with a beautiful 2.32 ERA/0.91 WHIP. Houston may be mired in scandal, but the Pressly-Osuna bridge at their endgame should remain steady.

 

Tier Two

Rogers has an argument for Tier One with the incredible 2.61 ERA/1.03 WHIP and 90 K’s and 40 SV+HLD in 69 IP last season. The Twins are in a fantastic spot in the top-heavy AL Central and Minnesota’s defense only got better behind their pitchers with the addition of Josh Donaldson. That’s only if hitters are fortunate enough to put bat on ball, as his 2018 28.9% strikeout rate jumped to 32.4% while posting a 50.6% groundball rate and 4% walk rate.

There are some huge beneficiaries from the SV+HLD format, with less value tied up in needing to retain permanent closer status. Emilio Pagan stepped up for the Rays after Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo were injured or inconsistent down the stretch, but full health may create flexibility with how Kevin Cash deploys these arms. At least you can buy into his skills without worrying about the rigid roles here.

Meanwhile, Giovanny Gallegos posted a 2.31 ERA and 0.84 WHIP over 74 IP in 2019, but didn’t see consistent late-game work early on. The SV+HLD format shields you from the mystery surrounding Carlos Martinez’s role as well as Jordan Hicks’ recovery.

Atlanta also boasts several late-inning arms with closing experience, but Will Smith is the most talented player in the ‘pen. Mark Melancon may defy the odds and hold onto the ninth throughout 2020, but Smith could wind up with 30 more strikeouts and better ratios.

Meanwhile, Jansen had to miss a few games at altitude due to a heart condition, but his overall 3.71 ERA/1.06 WHIP and 80 K’s in 63 frames remained strong. He’s always been a fly-ball pitcher and as such, 2018’s and 2019’s “higher” (for him) ERAs with a low WHIP add up with homers and fly outs. The last two seasons have also seen him post mortal 6% walk rates after that incredible 2.7% clip in ‘17 -- just small things worth noting. He remains a top-10 option, but he’s no longer in the upper echelon.

The Mets may have to decide on how to best use Edwin Diaz given his loss of command in ‘19 and Dellin Betances coming off a lost season. But they have one stable commodity in Lugo, who turned in 80 innings with 27 SV+HLDs, 104 strikeouts and pristine ratios in ‘19. Don’t count on seven victories to trickle in again, but he should get 35-40 decision opportunities.

 

Tier Three

Iglesias leads Tier Three, which sounds great except those who played this format last season will recall his 37 SV+HLDs were seventh-best in the game. So, what gives? Well, the 12 losses hurt, but underneath the surface, you’ll see how the 3.22 SIERA is consistent with his 3.31 career mark and the 31.9% strikeout rate was a career-best alongside a slight drop in walks (8.6% to 7.5%.) His HR/9 has been 1.50 and 1.61 in the past two seasons, but it was ramped up by allowing more fly balls in ‘19. After surrendering an average 35.2% fly-ball rate in ‘18, he was crushed by a 43.9% mark in ‘19. Soft contact went up, but so did hard contact. Welcome to modern-day baseball, land of the extremes.

While one could argue that Zack Britton belongs higher, but the poor strikeout rate stands out more in today’s world. While that sinker yielded amazing ratios for the Yankees and fantasy owners alike, a reliever that isn’t getting dedicated late work better give you plus whiffs to make it worth your while. You can’t rely on the holds racking up here this early in drafts, and I’m wary of ratios being the main reason to draft a reliever this early. At least his repertoire is good at mitigating any balls getting into the air.

The SV+HLD format really helps most of the Red Sox relievers retain a high floor as well, with Workman boasting the greatest skill set on the surface. But while most are aware of him after a brilliant 2019 where he recorded 10 wins, 16 saves and 15 holds with a 1.88 ERA/1.10 WHIP. He led the league with just one barrel allowed across the whole season, which means we need to prepare for regression. Matt Barnes is also in this group, as his 110 strikeouts in 64 ⅓ IP was outstanding but the walks and 1.42 WHIP that came with them were tough to absorb.

Washington is another bullpen with two players in this range, with Sean Doolittle’s left-handed and eased usage giving way to plenty of late work for righty Will Harris. Whether it’s a matchup decision or Davey Martinez is trying not to overwork Doolittle, Harris is almost guaranteed to work those late frames on defending World Series champs that should vie for 90-plus wins.

 

Tier Four

Here is where you start to find players with some fleas, but guaranteed roles. Andrew Miller had a 4.45 ERA/1.32 WHIP while Craig Stammen’s strikeout rate fell from a 27.8% spike in 2018 to 21.5% last year. Miller had poor ratios in 2018 as well (4.24 ERA/1.38 WHIP) but maintained hope in the 3.51 FIP/3.29 SIERA. With similar surface stats in ‘19, his FIP ballooned to 5.19 while the 3.87 SIERA wasn’t as dramatic. Be careful, but the opportunities for 30 SV+HLD will be there as long as he’s healthy. 

At 36 years old, Stammen boasts strong control (4.4% walk rate in ‘19) but his FIP soared to 4.12 after an elite 2.19 mark in ‘18. He should continue to work alongside Andres Munoz ahead of Kirby Yates, but this is another case of lesser strikeouts and some troubling sabermetrics under the hood.

Yusmeiro Petit has been a beast over the past three seasons, posting ERAs of 3.00 or less while tossing 83-93 innings with a collective WHIP below 1.00. His 19.8% K-BB% blends with Oakland’s pitcher-friendly park to yield BABIPs around .230 as an Athletic. You’ll find lesser K’s (71 in 83 IP last year) but in this case, his ratios appear safer on a year-to-year basis and Oakland is a great spot for churning Hold opportunities.

I’ll bet you can get Seranthony Dominguez on the cheap after losing large chunks of 2019 to injury, as new manager Joe Girardi knows how to flex a bullpen asset. Dominguez is only 25 years old and posted a 2.95 ERA/0.93 WHIP as a rookie, with 74 K’s in 58 frames. The command unraveled as his arm wore down last year, but even conservative Steamer gives him a 3.67 ERA/1.27 WHIP. I don’t understand where it pulls projecting a mere 13 holds over 55 innings, though. Dominguez scored 30 SV+HLD in 2018, and should work in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings with Hector Neris and (eventually) David Robertson.

 

Tier Five

Here comes the upside speculation, as I can’t get away from the Nick Anderson potential that lives in James Karinchak. Perhaps the Indians don’t use him in enough Hold opportunities to excite you, but he could top 80 strikeouts if given 50 innings. Colin Poche offers a similar profile with lesser strikeout upside and perhaps greater bullpen volume, though if he continues to throw his fastball around 85% of the time and is prone to the longball as a result. Hence the gorgeous 1.04 WHIP but 4.70 ERA.

Another premier setup men pop here, with Ty Buttrey bringing in around 30 SV+HLD over the year with plus strikeouts and average ratios. The raw SV+HLD volume is what buoys his value behind Hansel Robles in a subpar bullpen. Upside lurks with Clase on the Indians, with his penchant for control and being worth Corey Kluber’s trade potentially putting him ahead of Karinchak.

If I knew Drew Pomeranz was going to stay in the bullpen all year long and not potentially get stretched out as a starter then I’d have him higher, especially after he turned in a 1.88 ERA/0.85 WHIP with 50 K’s in just 28 ⅔ IP of relief for Milwaukee last season. He's a premier draft-day target here given the 100-plus strikeouts possible with 55-60 innings.

I want to believe in Joe Jimenez over the longterm, but the 3.14 SIERA in 2018 was tied to a 4.31 ERA and his 3.41 SIERA last season hid behind a 4.37 ERA. At some point, the results have to be there. After a rough July 17 outing, Jimenez posted a 2.55 ERA with 31 strikeouts to seven walks over 24 ⅔ IP. Of the seven runs allowed, five of them came on solo homers. He didn’t issue a walk over his final eight appearances of the season, so there are hints of greatness, but we must keep our heads on straight.

 

Tier Six

I realize folks may be down a bit on Trevor May with Sergio Romo’s signing, but I still have him as the third man in this ‘pen and he should get 20-plus SV+HLD opps throughout the season. Amir Garrett had a nasty 1.43 WHIP last season, but the 3.21 ERA had him mitigating the potential damage while logging 22 holds. Tony Watson will need to recapture his form after a “blah” 4.17 ERA and poor 41 K’s in 54 IP last season, but he’s got a veteran’s inside track to the late innings in San Francisco.

While everyone’s looking at Karinchak and Clase, folks may let Nick Wittgren and his 2.81 ERA/1.10 WHIP with a strikeout per inning slide. The other two are flashier with higher upside, but Wittgren has trust and should stay in the late innings. I believe Matt Magill and the improved control he showed on Seattle will give him the edge as either Seattle’s fireman or closer, as Sam Tuivailala’s walk rate was twice Magill’s in 2019.

 

Tier Seven

Those hairs we split in “tiers” really start to make themselves known the further you get, but I have to point out that folks like Chad Green and Freddy Peralta aren’t likely to rack up the saves or holds, but have earned a place in RP ranks with their strong strikeout work.

Feel free to ignore them at your leisure, as Trevor Gott should find himself towards the late innings in spacious San Francisco after a helpful 1.11 WHIP and 57 K’s in 52 ⅔ IP last season. Tyler Duffey may not get the same Hold tally in 2020 if Minnesota’s bullpen is healthy, but the 2.50 ERA/1.03 WHIP and 82 punchouts in 57 ⅔ IP should give him 15-20 holds. Sergio Romo can’t pitch every day!

I’d rather not rely on Joe Kelly rebounding when you can just buy into Pedro Baez or Blake Treinen instead, with Treinen’s rebound ceiling higher than Kelly’s. But the Dodgers bullpen use is typically structured and Kelly shouldn’t fall far down the totem pole. Kyle Crick’s control left him entirely through 2019, but he’s still at least a top-three arm in that rebuilding ‘pen with plus strikeout ability. The same goes for Lou Trivino.

Crick could emerge should the rebuilding Pirates deal Keone Kela. Crick has reported no setbacks in recovery from tendon repair surgery on his right index finger, an injury suffered during a fight with Felipe Vazquez. Shocking that someone would fight Vazquez, I know. Crick’s command left him in ‘19, with an awful 15.5% walk rate and 1.84 HR/9 mark, but he’d posted a 2.39 ERA/1.13 WHIP in ‘18. Just keep an eye out on his spring command.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Tyler Clippard returns the most value here after the 2.38 ERA/0.87 WHIP from last year, but life may be difficult beyond Rogers, Romo and May in the ‘pen. I’d rather have Tyler Duffey, who had 23 more strikeouts in just one additional inning last season and won’t grab anyone’s attention by name.

 

Tier Eight

Here’s where you have to make some team-dependent decisions, as you can target high-strikeout potential in Darwinzon Hernandez and hope his command improves enough to be trusted with hold-worthy innings. Jake Diekman has a shade of this as well, though his command is still better than Hernandez. Put it this way, you’re hoping Hernandez reaches Diekman-level control and perhaps you get 100 K’s in 55 frames.

If you’re okay with lower K output but improved ratios and SV+HLD potential, then you might want Toronto’s Anthony Bass or Milwaukee’s Brent Suter. Both are currently around the eighth inning for their teams, but aren’t likely to reach the 9.0 K/9 mark. Baltimore’s Mychal Givens and Texas’ Rafael Montero offer more middle ground, with enhanced K’s but with shakier roles. Givens needed to recover his form with early work, while Montero is likely the best riser to identify here after the Clase deal.

Miami offers sneaky upside with Ryne Stanek, as the Marlins may look to get Jose Urena back into a starting role. Stanek slogged through a 6.35 ERA as a traditional reliever last season, posting a 40/25 K/BB ratio in 34 frames against his prettier stats as a “starter” (Tampa’s opener,) with a 49/14 K/BB ratio and 2.09 ERA in 43 IP. You can gamble on that form returning for the cost of a penny.

 

Tiers Nine and Lower

Here are those project relievers who have a couple of things to work on. Tanner Rainey offers incredible K upside (74 in 48 ⅓ IP last season) but you know you’re soaking in a 1.50 WHIP and lower-leverage innings with recent signings on the team. How long does it take Corey Knebel to get moving and does he return to form, or is this 2019 Jimmy Nelson all over again for the Brewers?

Speaking of Milwaukee, does Corbin Burnes figure out how to stop giving up homers and does he stay in the bullpen if so? Can Wade Davis reclaim his form or has age and pitching at altitude ruined his potential? Does Keynan Middleton get back to form for the Halos? Maybe Hector Rondon steps up with Arizona’s humidor at his back and becomes their seventh-inning man ahead of Archie Bradley and Kevin Ginkel. 

And then it becomes about finding roles rather than skills. Does Jose Alvarez keep his place towards Philly’s back-end? It’s a decent shot. Maybe Brad Brach rebounds and leapfrogs any of Betances, Diaz or Familia, all of whom have shaken trust. Seattle signed Carl Edwards Jr. and there’s no reason he doesn’t become the closer with a great spring, but I think he settles into the seventh inning and quietly offers 15 holds. Joakim Soria is likely Oakland’s RP3 at the moment, same goes for Wilmer Font in Toronto, Scott Barlow for Kansas City and Jarlin Garcia in Miami.

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The NFL offseason has arrived, which means that it's time for us to go all-in on dynasty mode. The time between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft is the time for dynasty players to make some moves and try to make their team better -- or worse, if you're rebuilding and looking for draft... Read More


RB Opportunity Share and Impact (NFC East & North)

With the season over and real-life free agency and April's NFL draft ahead of us, it's time to look at how each team split their targets and carries (both of them combined in what is called opportunities; sometimes it's receptions instead of targets, but I wanted to look at the overall volume and total chances instead)... Read More


Odell Beckham - Dynasty Buy or Sell?

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano discuss the dynasty value of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.. Will he bounce back in 2020 to return WR1 fantasy football value or is he no longer an elite receiver? Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us... Read More