Holds are one of the most difficult fantasy baseball statistics to predict. But we’re going to try anyway.
Really, the league has the cream of the crop when it comes to setup men and we only have to look at one team to prove it.
The team in question, obvious to any seasoned holds-league veteran, is the San Diego Padres. They had three players score at least 10 holds, and two of them had 38 or more. That is not a typo.
The two numbers accompanying these National League bullpen reports are total holds (from all players with 10 or more) and the average holds per reliever in the sample. Check out the AL discussion for a more detailed explanation of the ranking.
The teams are ranked based on average. This represents teams, managers or situations that lend themselves to high individual holds totals.
Let’s take a look at some of the most notable bullpens in the National League:
San Diego Padres
Holds average: 29.7 | Total: 89
Closer: Heath Bell
We’re starting in San Diego because they managed both of last year’s top setup men in Luke Gregerson (MLB-leading 40) and Mike Adams (38). Until further notice, they are our benchmarks for great setup men.
Holds average: 23 | Total: 46
Closer: Francisco Cordero
We have to highlight the Reds this early because of Aroldis Chapman. Francisco Cordero is a time bomb waiting to go off. Chapman will be the closer. He should give you well above average Ks and until he gets the closer role, he should get a pile of holds. Arthur Rhodes moved on to the Rangers so Nick Masset is the next in line for holds.
Holds average: 21.3 | Total: 64
Closer: Huston Street
The Rockies boasted three players with 20 or more holds in 2010. Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle were more effective than Joe Beimel, who took a job with the Pirates in the offseason. That means either Franklin Morales or Matt Lindstrom get those additional statistics or Betancourt and Belisle get to pad their totals.
Holds average: 20.7 | Total: 62
Closer: Craig Kimbrel
Jonny Venters looks to go from fireballing closer to fireballing setup man. He’ll post 100 Ks and 30 holds. If Craig Kimbrel falters, he’ll get some save opportunities. Pete Moylan could come away with a couple holds, but he’ll spend a lot of time on your waiver wire as well.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Holds average: 18.5 | Total: 37
Closer: Jonathan Broxton
Hong-Chih Kuo was on several of my teams last year. He notched 21 holds, 12 saves and matched sterling ratios with more than a K per inning. That made him, arguably, the best non-closing reliever in fantasy last season. However, the pen is deep behind closer Jonathan Broxton. Kenley Jansen, LA’s closer in waiting, and new addition Matt Guerrier, who held 21 for the Twins last season, will both be in the mix. Hard to punt Kuo because an excellent pitcher is going to get his opportunities. Still the logjam is a bit worrisome.
Holds average: 17.7 | Total: 53
Closer: Drew Storen/Sean Burnett
The first name that should spring to any holds-league player’s mind when they think Nationals is Tyler Clippard. Clippard had a truly impressive fantasy season, with 11 wins, 23 holds, a save and 112 strikeouts in 91 innings. He, however, also blew 10 saves, lost 8 games, walked 41 batters and allowed 110 baserunners in 91 innings. Don’t overbid. His teammate, Sean Burnett, doesn’t strike out as many, but had as many holds and better ratios in 2010. He’ll split closing duties with Drew Storen in 2011.
Holds average: 17.7 | Total: 53
Closer: Leo Nunez
A couple Florida players will earn holds, but the one we need to focus on most is Clay Hensley. Hensley improved dramatically last season. He improved so much I’ve read some rumormongers pointing to Hensley unseating Leo Nunez at closer before the season is over. When you’re targeting setup men in any format, the guy in line for saves, but who will get some holds, should always be among the top targets.
Holds average: 16 | Total: 64
Closer: John Axford
If I could flat out tell you that Kameron Loe was the dude in the eighth, I’d do that. But I have my doubts. Call Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins and Zack Braddock our monkeywrenches. It’s not that I don’t like the other guys, it’s that Loe’s second half last year was so promising. Still, Saito’s probably in line for holds. Hawkins is a liability, but for some reason the depth chart always has him right under the closer. Braddock was impressive in a second half that doesn’t fit with his skill (lucky!). Still his K/9 is exciting and at 23, he could make the proper adjustments to be a force in the bullpen. Draft any of them? Yep, well, except Hawkins. Saito and Hawkins are both old as dirt, but Hawkins has had some trouble playing baseball the last couple years.
Holds average: 14.7 | Total: 44
Closer: Joel Hanrahan
Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan each had significant holds totals in 2010. This year, Hanrahan is coming out in the ninth and will replace Meek just about every time. Opponents hit just .185 against Meek last season, expect him to get a bigger workload in 2011.
Likely holds leaders for the next teams on the list:
Houston: Wilton Lopez
San Francisco: Sergio Romo
Philadelphia: Ryan Madson
St. Louis: Jason Motte