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Fantasy Baseball Saves + Holds Rankings & Waiver Wire Targets (Week 1)

Fantasy Baseball Saves + Holds Rankings & Waiver Wire Targets (Week 1)

This is our first article of the season. It usually takes a few weeks to get some developments in these bullpens but we’re in the muck right off the bat. Many elite closers got injured during spring training, opening up value. That’ll be a major theme in this article but it’s up to you to follow the questionable bullpens. We’re going to discover 5-10 new closers in the opening two weeks. This is the time to act.

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Saves + Holds Rankings & Waiver Wire Targets

Closer Situations to Watch

These are bullpens we need to monitor.

Arizona Diamondbacks

This was a late addition to this article with Paul Sewald going down on Tuesday. He was acquired to be the closer last year but he’ll start the season on the injured list (IL) because of a Grade 2 oblique strain that will likely keep him out a month. Early bets are Kevin Ginkel will take the gig to start.

Baltimore Orioles

Felix Bautista is one of the best closers in baseball, but he’s expected to miss the season due to Tommy John surgery. The O’s went out and signed Craig Kimbrel to fill that role but we must keep them in this section until we’re sure he’s the closer. The righty blew two of his final four saves last year but bounced back with a 3.26 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a 12.3 K/9 rate in a sparking season.

Colorado Rockies

We want to avoid a handful of teams altogether. Colorado is one of them. The Rockies are expected to be the worst team in the National League and we have no clue who will close. Daniel Bard was the guy but he’s injured as well. That means it’ll be up to Justin Lawrence and Tyler Kinley, with Kinley likely the best bet. He had five saves in the final month of last year. However, we don’t want anyone from this pen unless we’re desperate.

Chicago White Sox

This is another team we want no part of. Chicago is projected to finish with one of the worst win totals in baseball. Saves will be few and far between. It’s not like we have any idea who the closer will be because Liam Hendriks and Kendall Graveman play for new teams. John Brebbia is the veteran in this pen and that alone makes him the favorite in my book. Don’t be surprised to see Steven Wilson, Jordan Leasure or Jimmy Lambert get the crack, either.

Detroit Tigers

Alex Lange is the presumed closer but we have to include Detroit in here until we know for sure. He lost his job in the middle of last season but closed the year with a 2.70 ERA and 1.20 WHIP across his final 13 appearances. He also had seven saves in that span and should hold off Jason Foley as the primary closer for now.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals signed Will Smith in the offseason but he hasn’t been announced as the closer. We expect him to take that role, registering a 3.14 ERA and 0.86 WHIP through the opening three months last year while picking up 22 saves for the Rangers. That should be enough of a resume to grab this gig. James McArthur is also a top candidate.

Milwaukee Brewers

Devin Williams is one of the best closers in the game but he’ll be out for three months because of back issues. Milwaukee has yet to name a closer in his absence but Joel Payamps is a sneaky pickup. He had a 2.55 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 rate in a dominant 2023 season, allowing just one run in two months last year. Abner Uribe and Trevor Megill are the best bets if he doesn’t get the gig.

Minnesota Twins

Here we are with another injured closer. Jhoan Duran is expected to miss some time for Minnesota and it’s unclear who will take over the role. Griffin Jax is the best bet, amassing a 3.60 ERA and 1.11 WHIP as the setup man over the last two years. This isn’t a long-term deal but Jax is a sneaky addition if you’re desperate for saves.

Oakland A’s

The Rockies and White Sox were teams we wanted to avoid. The A’s are another one. Oakland is projected to finish with the worst record in MLB, and they might only get 30-40 saves as a team. That makes it less surprising they don’t have a designated closer, with Mason Miller and Dany Jimenez looking like the best bet to snatch that role. Miller is the most talented; Jimenez has the most experience.

Philadelphia Phillies

We assume this is Jose Alvarado‘s job but we’ll include Philly in this section until we see it. They got rid of Kimbrel in the offseason but Alvarado was one of the best closers before his injury. He had a 0.63 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 15.1 K/9 rate through the opening month before getting injured. That sort of upside makes him one of the best bets at the end of drafts. Jeff Hoffman is the only other guy who might get a crack.

Texas Rangers

We just talked about how Will Smith moved to Kansas City — that’s because Jose Leclerc took over in the final months of last year. The former closer finished the year with a 1.99 ERA and 1.01 WHIP over the final two months. He also had most of the postseason saves and should get plenty of chances for one of the best teams in the sport. We’ll keep Texas in here until we’re sure because David Robertson was signed in the offseason and has been an elite closer throughout his career.

Toronto Blue Jays

The injuries from closers are out of control. Jordan Romano is another guy dealing with arm issues but he’s not expected to be out long. In his absence, we expect Erik Swanson to take the bulk of the saves, who has ranked as one of the league leaders in holds the last two years. Swanson is also injured, so don’t forget about Yimi Garcia!

Washington Nationals

This is the final terrible team we want to avoid. Kyle Finnegan is expected to be the guy, though, posting some ugly numbers in the final months of last year. He had a 7.71 ERA and 1.90 WHIP over the final two months. Many people believe Hunter Harvey will run away with this gig. Harvey had a 2.82 ERA and 0.94 WHIP last year and is the better pitcher of the two. That doesn’t mean he’ll get the saves, though.

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My Saves/Holds Rankings

Rank Player Team
1. Josh Hader HOU
2. Edwin Diaz NYM
3. Emmanuel Clase CLE
4. Evan Phillips LAD
5. Camilo Doval SF
6. Andres Munoz SEA
7. Raisel Iglesias ATL
8. Pete Fairbanks TB
9. Jordan Romano (IL) TOR
10. Ryan Helsley STL
11. Paul Sewald (IL) ARI
12. Jhoan Duran (IL) MIN
13. David Bednar PIT
14. Craig Kimbrel BAL
15. Ryan Pressly HOU
16. Clay Holmes NYY
17. Alexis Diaz CIN
18. Tanner Scott MIA
19. Jose Alvarado PHI
20. Bryan Abreu HOU
21. Erik Swanson TOR
22. Robert Suarez SD
23. Kenley Jansen BOS
24. Jose Leclerc TEX
25. Carlos Estevez LAA
26. Alex Lange DET
27. Joel Payamps MIL
28. Will Smith KC
29. Kyle Finnegan WAS
30. Jason Adam TB

Relievers on the Rise

Joel Payamps (MIL)

Milwaukee hasn’t announced a closer yet but our bet is on Payamps. We already talked about how absurd he was at times last season. He’s the trusted guy over Uribe and Megill. Get in on this before he picks up the first save.

Griffin Jax (MIN)

With Duran going down for an extended period, Jax should take over as the closer since he was the setup man before. That’s usually how bullpens play out, with Jax posting a 3.36 ERA and 1.05 WHIP last year. He also had four saves and 23 holds, making him one of the best waiver wire adds to start the year.

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Potential Closers on the IL

Felix Bautista (BAL): The O’s closer is out for the year after Tommy John surgery.

Jhoan Duran (MIN): Duran is out with a moderate oblique strain and has no timetable to return.

Jordan Romano (TOR): Romano has been dealing with an elbow issue but is expected to play catch soon. He will begin the season on the IL but might not miss too much time.

Devin Williams (MIL): Williams will be out for at least three months because of back issues.

Paul Sewald (ARI): Sewald just suffered a Grade 2 oblique strain and will likely miss at least a month.

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Joel Bartilotta is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @Bartilottajoel.

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