RELIEVERS: Holds Leaderboard

This week, this columnist reports in from the beach at Waikoloa and takes a look at holds so far through 2017. The leaderboard is rich with left-handers, as is often true. Elite left-handers are hard to come by and are very effective as weapons used flexibly to get key hitters as they arrive in the order in late innings. Andrew Miller (LHP, CLE) was used with devastating effect in the playoffs last year, but this is by no means a new phenomenon.

Miller is on this year's leaderboard too. But there are other lefties joining him:

YTD                Hd
=================  ==
Ottavino (COL)     17
A.Miller (CLE) (L) 15
T.Rogers (MIN) (L) 15
Vizcaino (ATL)     13
Bowman (STL)       13
F.Rivero (PIT) (L) 13

Adam Ottavino (RHP, COL) missed some time and frankly has not pitched up to expectations. But he has reliably been used in front of Rockies closer Greg Holland (RHP, COL) to preserve leads and the Rockies pen in general has been great on what has been the best team in the NL to date. One might expect Jake McGee (LHP, COL) to be on the leader board for holds as well early in the season, but fellow lefty Mike Dunn (LHP, COL) has grabbed many of those lefty holds instead. Having the two elite lefties and the great work by Holland at the end has worked, but Ottavino has soft skills and may give ground as the season wears on. Pay attention to this potential problem (Ottavino's actual ERA is over a run lower than his xERA).

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Miller has been everything advertised for the Indians and then some. He is the only reliever on today's lists with a 200+ BPV and 200+ projected BPV for the balance of the season. Yet he doesn't have a single save! Expect Miller to run away with the holds category, however, and in leagues that value this category—as well as in sim leagues—it will be hard to find a better reliever.

Taylor Rogers (LHP, MIN) is something of a surprise on this list. He has been ok skills-wise, but not really elite. However, he is pitching in the perfect position on a Minnesota team with a solid lineup and mediocre starting pitching giving him a lot more chances. Rogers is not projected to run up a bunch more holds over the balance of the season, but he probably will as long as he gets to pitch ahead of the ninth with leads as he has to date. Rogers is a nice get in holds leagues and is not the worst sim play ever if you need to get those innings with a rough lefty in the middle.

The other lefty on the list is elite Felipe Rivero (LHP, PIT). Rivero was setting up fellow lefty Tony Watson (LHP, PIT) but has since replaced him alongside Juan Nicasio (RHP, PIT) as co-closer for the Pirates. Watson might start picking up holds—something he did and did well before closing. Rivero will not keep getting holds, of course, as long as he is in there for saves. Something to watch, and of course, Rivero has only been a tick lower than Miller skills-wise.

Matthew Bowman (RHP, STL) has actually been better for St. Louis than his actual ERA would suggest, and a run lower in xERA. Bowman and Trevor Rosenthal (RHP, STL) have both been better than closer Seung Hwan Oh (RHP, STL) from a skills standpoint, but Oh is getting by with the saves, Bowman is getting to set-up, and Rosenthal is getting the inherited runners and chance to deal with deficits. Bowman may give some of his role to Tyler Lyons (RHP, STL) as he has in recent weeks, so if you are thinking of Bowman for holds, watch out for this problem.

Here are the holds leaders over the past month:

L30                Hd
=================  ==
A.Miller (CLE) (L)  7
Vizcaino (ATL)      7
J.Smith (TOR)       6
P.Baez (LA)         6
F.Salas (NYM)       6
D.Phelps (MIA)      6
M.Barnes (BOS)      6
J.Barnes (MIL)      6
J.Nicasio (PIT)     6

Miller and Vizcaino have led the way over the past month. Emerging holds roles have started for Joe Smith (RHP, TOR) who has a 200+ BPV as well during his renaissance for the Blue Jays. Pedro Baez (RHP, LA) got a slow start in 2017 with injury, but the Dodgers have returned him to his role that made him a holds favorite pre-season.

More surprising is Fernando Salas (RHP, NYM) as the main set-up for the Mets with solid lefties available. Salas had a rocky April, but he has been better over the past month, albeit not exactly elite. Miami started the year with a revamped group of set-up and had hoped to use David Phelps (RHP, MIA) in more of a multiple-inning role. But Phelps has proven reliable in set-up instead and is being used to get outs in front of Ramos instead of the other Marlins relievers--namely, the disappointing Brad Ziegler (RHP, MIA), Kyle Barraclough (RHP, MIA) and Junichi Tazawa (RHP, MIA). Miami misses having an elite lefty and it shows.

Boston used Heath Hembree (RHP, BOS) quite a bit early, but he has been supplanted by Matt Barnes (RHP, BOS) in recent weeks. When Milwaukee moved Corey Knebel (RHP, MIL) up from holds leaderboard to closer and saves, the team also moved Jacob Barnes (RHP, MIL) up to take over the key set-up/holds role. Former closer Neftali Feliz (RHP, MIL) was designated for assignment.

Juan Nicasio (RHP, PIT) moved past Daniel Hudson (RHP, PIT) by outpitching him and now has moved up again after a month of solid set-up to co-closer for the Pirates. Nicasio may have fewer holds as a result, but he did have a terrific month and may gather a lot of holds and saves before the season is over.

Next week, we report on some skills versus actual ERA—future winners and future losers.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.