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Saves + Holds Leagues Primer (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

Saves + Holds Leagues Primer (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

Whenever I see the words “saves and holds,” I think of a beauty product. You know, something that keeps your hair healthy and holds the dye? It’s because my wife has products like this in the shower.

Seriously, the beauty of a league that uses Saves + Holds is simple: It expands the reliever player pool. We should trumpet any rule that allows us to value more players. There is fierce talent among middle relievers. While a good rule of thumb in saves-only leagues is to draft talent and hope for the role, in an S+H league, there is a greater possibility of being rewarded for your scouting efforts.

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First, you should still focus on getting solid closers (unless they really hurt you in other categories). You should do this for three reasons.

  1. Saves are easier to collect in bunches than holds. For instance, last year, 12 relievers recorded 25 saves or more, and only four relievers recorded 25 holds or more.
  2. Regardless of format, a proven closer maximizes your inning efficiency. That’s because a closer almost always enters in the ninth inning with a lead. A setup man or middle reliever may enter a variety of game situations. Therefore, try to get at least one of the top 10 closers.
  3. Finally, it’s harder to grab a recently promoted closer off waivers in these leagues. If your closer gets injured, there is a good chance someone will already own his replacement. Personally, I’d love to roster Josh Hader and Devin Williams this year. If Hader gets traded, I hope Williams replaces him and Hader continues closing elsewhere. Look for other places to do this, like with Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green. Choose strong teams. Three of the top 10 holds leaders last year were on the Atlanta Braves.

Second, don’t let ADP decide for you, especially later in a draft. The FantasyPros website allows you to look at where different experts rank players. If you look at relief pitchers, you can see the wild variance among experts. In the case of Will Smith (ATL), some rank him at 90, some at 156. That’s nearly a six-round difference. The lowest expert ranking would slot Will Smith just before the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECRs) of Kenley Jansen, Jordan Romano, and Giovanny Gallegos.

My Featured Rankings

So how did I rank these relievers for you? First, I checked FantasyPros’ projections against Steamer projections to establish a firm range in four pitching categories: saves, holds, ERA, and WHIP. Second, I ranked my pitchers the same way I ranked my hitters, based on how many categories they can help me win, and by how much. We often refrain from buying a one-category hitter. Why wouldn’t we be equally picky about our relievers? If a guy gives me 20 S+H but torpedoes the rest of my stats, he’s basically Billy Hamilton. I don’t follow the fantasy advice that “a save is a save.” Do we say a home run is a home run? Of course not. We can get a ton of homers from Joey Gallo, but his batting average hurts. Do we say a win is a win for starting pitchers? No way. Chris Flexen was tied for sixth in wins last year. Does that make us take him as the sixth pitcher off the board?

Peruse the list below and note that my rankings are based on how many categories (1-4) the reliever will help with (saves + holds, ERA, WHIP, and Ks). You might call these tiers. You will note that this means certain guys have more S+H, but they are lower on the board. It also means many guys may appear lower than you would expect.

If a reliever is projected to have an ERA higher than ~3.30 or a WHIP higher than ~1.15, I concluded that he might hurt me in that category. If the S+H isn’t particularly lofty, then I didn’t accept it as helpful compared to other players with better contributions elsewhere. If they’re likely to provide fewer Ks per inning, it’s also not as helpful. This can help make more pinpoint decisions during the draft and beyond. It’s a moving target, certainly, as reliever roles change dramatically, but it’s a good starting point. I know there are a few people you’d like to see on this list, but I had to cut it off somewhere. Sleepers not in my list include Jorge Alcala (MIN) and Connor Brogdon (PHI).

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Joshua Thusat is a featured writer at FantasyPros.

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