One of the more underrated pitching stats in fantasy is the hold. Not many leagues use the statistic as a category, as holds tend to be even more volatile than the ever-present save. Baseball Reference defines it as “a hold is granted to a relief pitcher who enters a game with his team in the lead in a save situation, and hands over that lead to another reliever without the score having been tied in the interim.”
Any league that uses holds will typically include this category alongside saves. Holds add a new element to any league and adds value to pitchers that will typically see no play during the season otherwise. As a bonus, most of the pitchers with high hold totals tend to be good sleeper picks for closers in the wings. This week we’re going to take a look at some of these players, so whether you’re in a league that counts holds or simply looking ahead to stash a potential closer, we’re here to help.
Adam Ottavino – Rockies – Before he was injured in 2015, Ottavino was talked about as a possible sleeper for the Rockies closing job, with good reason. Although he’s only pitched 10 2/3 innings this season, Ottavino already has 10 holds and a 10.97 K/9 rate. Greg Holland currently has a lock on the Rockies closing job, but, should he get injured, I expect Ottavino to get the first crack at taking over, rather than lefty Jake McGee. Ottavino is likely already picked in quite a few leagues, but even in leagues that don’t count holds, I would recommend adding Ottavino to your watch list.
Joe Biagini – Blue Jays – Barely a month into the season, closer Roberto Osuna has three blown saves to his name. While setup man Jason Grilli does have closing experience, he’s 40 years old and has a 7.27 ERA on the season. Biagini, on the other hand, is coming off a season in which he pitched 67 2/3 innings with a 8.25 K/9 and picked up nine holds. While his K/9 is down this season (currently 6.35), he’s already picked up a save and four holds. I expect Biagini to continue to rack up holds with an outside shot of taking over the closer spot if Osuna continues to falter.
Koda Glover – Nationals – While Glover is currently on the 10-day DL, I would recommend him even with the hip injury. Glover is a popular sleeper candidate for the the Nationals closing role, and looking at his minor-league stats, it’s easy to see why. The righty jumped from high-A to MLB in 2016, and while he faltered some upon reaching the bigs, it’s not entirely unexpected for someone who’s facing major-league batters for the first time. Before he hit the DL, Glover had already picked up two saves in only eight innings pitched, and his only roadblock is current closer Shawn Kelley. Furthermore, Dusty Baker flat out stated that Glover would be sharing the role when he removed former closer Blake Treinen. I would recommend stashing Glover if you have not already done so, because all signs point to Glover taking over the closer role at some point in the near future.
Daniel Hudson – Pirates – This one is a bit strange, as Tony Watson is currently sitting on seven saves and ERA under 1.00 while Hudson has a 5.59 ERA. However, when you look a little deeper, it’s easy to see that the roles could reverse quickly. Watson is striking out as many batters as he walks, with a left-on-base rate of 100%. His FIP currently sits at 5.90 and his xFIP is 5.38. It’s very likely regression is coming and Hudson is the natural choice for the next in line. Hudson already has seven holds on the season and has a K-BB% of 15.6%. His FIP (3.21) and xFIP (4.07) also suggest that he has quite a bit of room to improve on his current ERA, and if Watson begins to regress or gets injured, Hudson could easily keep the closer role for the rest of the season. If not, he’s still a solid pitcher that projects to continue to pick up holds as the Pirates primary set-up man.
Nate Jones – White Sox – Jones picked up a career high 28 holds last season, and already has four in 2017. While I expect David Robertson to continue to close for the White Sox for the foreseeable future, they were attempting to move him during the offseason and Jones has been good enough to take over Robertson’s spot if they do. Jones has not had a K/9 under 10 in a single season dating back to 2013 and is currently at 11.57 K/9 this season. He has also lowered his walk rate over the past three seasons, ending up with a 1.91 in 2016. While his BB/9 is inflated to begin this season(4.63), his growth over the past few season leads one to expect some positive regression as the season wears on. Thankfully, even if the White Sox end up holding onto Robertson for the entire season, Jones is still a solid choice for anyone looking to pick up holds.