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Saves + Holds Leagues Targets (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

by Joshua Thusat
Mar 11, 2023
Ryan Helsley

If this is your first time playing in a league that values both saves and holds, welcome to the revolution. I wish all my leagues would include holds for one reason: It expands the player pool.

Last season, only 10 pitchers managed to accomplish 30+ saves, and if we’re all scrambling for 10 proven closers, we force ourselves to draft someone like Emmanuel Clase for 60 innings instead of a hitter like Matt Olson or Kyle Schwarber for (hopefully) 100 at-bats per month. We force ourselves to ignore the likes of Jose Alvarado, who managed only two saves in 2022 alongside his 22 holds, a 3.18 ERA (with a 1.92 FIP), a 57.4% GB%, and a 33.3% CSW%. If he lives up to his full potential on that Phillies team, in a saves AND holds league, he could be gold.

Consider it this way: No other position in baseball accounts for an entire stat in traditional 5×5 rotisserie categories. Infielders and outfielders in your lineup can contribute to all of the hitting stats. Every single pitcher can help with a win, ERA, WHIP, or K.

But when we look at saves? Forget about it. There is one position. That’s the closer. Many teams have figured out that this is foolish, deciding to use their best relievers in big moments earlier, or rotating fresh arms for the day to get the last three outs. How do we know this? More than 60 relievers had 5+ saves last year.

The biggest defense offered in my home league for maintaining the “saves-only” stat seems to be this: It’s a challenge. I’m all for a challenge, but when some of the best pitchers in baseball are basically ignored unless they pitch in the ninth inning, I have to wonder if my colleagues even like the sport!

For First-Timers

There is a difference between a reliever who closes and a reliever who simply takes over for a starting pitcher. That’s why you can still draft closers first. They’re more valuable if they own the role because the manager usually puts them in when there is an opportunity to save a game. The setup pitchers, as well as other middle relievers, may relieve the starter (or another reliever), but they may not enter in a hold situation.

For this primer, I want to list the closers with the highest K% below, which means valuing guys who will help your other ratios. Please compare this to your own lists, as there are other factors like the strength of the team and GB% (hello, Emmanuel Clase). But this is a good starting point.

Saves (by K%)

Edwin Diaz (NYM) 50.2%, Ryan Helsley (STL) 39.3%, Josh Hader (SD) 37%, Ryan Pressly (HOU) 35.7%, Felix Bautista (BAL) 34.8%, David Bednar (PIT) 32.9%, Kenley Jansen (BOS) 32.7%, Alexis Diaz (CIN) 32.5%, Raisel Iglesias (ATL) 31.7%, Alex Lange (DET) 30.3%, Jordan Romano (TOR) 28.3%, Emmanuel Clase (CLE) 28.4%, Daniel Bard (COL) 28.2%, Camilo Doval (SF) 28%, Scott Barlow (KC) 26.6%, Clay Holmes (NYY) 25%

Holds (by K%)

Pete Fairbanks (TB) 43.7%, Devin Williams (MIL) 40%, James Karinchak (CLE) 38.8%, Andres Munoz (SEA) 38.7%, Jose Alvarado (PHI) 37.9%, Bryan Abreu (HOU) 35.5%, Alex Vesia (LAD) 34.8%, A.J. Minter (ATL) 34.7%, Erik Swanson (TOR) 34.5%, Matt Brash (SEA) 33.9%, Jhoan Duran (MIN) 33.5%, Evan Phillips (LAD) 33%, Jason Adam (TB) 31.6%, Hector Neris (HOU) 30%, Seranthony Dominguez (PHI) 29.5%, Brooks Raley (TB) 27.9%, Rafael Montero (HOU) 27%, Aroldis Chapman (KC) 26.9%

Do Not Forget

Adbert Alzolay (CHC) 36.5%, Liam Hendriks (CWS) 36.2%, Joe Jimenez (ATL) 33.5%, Zach Jackson (OAK) 33.2%, Jovani Moran (MIN) 32.9%, Chris Martin (BOS) 32.9%, Robert Suarez (SD) 31.9%, Ron Marinaccio (NYY) 30.9%, Jose Leclerc (TEX) 27.3%, A.J. Puk (MIA) 27%, Griffin Jax (MIN) 26.9%, Bryan Baker (BAL) 26.1%, Brad Boxberger (CHC) 25.4%, Dylan Coleman (KC) 24.6%

Remember that Liam Hendriks was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January, so his timetable is unclear. Pitchers who made significant adjustments in the second half of 2022 include names like Jovani Moran, Griffin Jax, and Bryan Abreu. The best bullpen in baseball arguably belongs to the Houston Astros, but there is a reason the Cleveland Guardians managed to fight their way into the playoffs last year. Beyond the well-known names of Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak, don’t forget Trevor Stephan (30.7%) and Eli Morgan (28.1%). Sam Hentges (29.4%) is dealing with a shoulder issue but is showing progress.

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