If you’ve been playing fantasy baseball for a while you know how volatile the fantasy baseball closer position and the pursuit for saves can be. 

Unless you’ve invested a good chunk of your draft day capital in elite options like Edwin Diaz, Emmanuel Clase and Josh Hader, there’s a pretty good chance that if your fantasy closer goes on a prolonged slump, he’s going to lose his job. 

For the most part injuries are unpredictable, but we’ve already seen some pretty good closers sidelined this preseason including David Bednar, Jordan Romano and Jhoan Duran.


One way to avoid the uncertainty baked into the closer position is to play in a Saves + Holds league. You likely already know that a save is recorded when a relief pitcher finishes a game for the winning team under the following circumstances:

(MLB.com’s glossary includes the following in their definition of a save)

A relief pitcher recording a save must preserve his team's lead while doing one of the following:

  • Enter the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitch at least one inning.
  • Enter the game with the tying run in the on-deck circle, at the plate or on the bases.
  • Pitch at least three innings.

MLB.com’s glossary defines a hold this way:

A hold occurs when a relief pitcher enters the game in a save situation and maintains his team's lead for the next relief pitcher, while recording at least one out. One of two conditions must be met for a pitcher to record a hold: 1) He enters with a lead of three runs or less and maintains that lead while recording at least one out. 2) He enters the game with the tying run on-deck, at the plate or on the bases, and records an out.

Leagues that use saves and holds as categories are becoming increasingly popular and are even spilling over into some expert leagues as shown by the Tout Wars Baseball Experts league adding the Saves and Holds category to their 15-team mixed auction league.  

The following are several relievers who could potentially be a good resource for holds. Most of them also have a direct path to occasional save opportunities as well.

Hector Neris, Chicago Cubs

Neris was tied with Baltimore Oriole reliever Yennier Cano for the major league lead in holds with 31 last season.  Neris’ 1.71 ERA was just over two runs better than his 3.72 2022 ERA and while his 4.08 BB/9 was his highest rate since the 2020 season, opposing hitters batted just .172 against him. With 89 career saves Neris would likely step into the closer role should Adbert Alzolay be unavailable. 

Julian Merryweather is another Cubs reliever with a path to an occasional save chance who is also expected to provide potential double digit holds production. He’s not just a one trick pony. Merryweather’s 98 strikeouts were the sixth most of any reliever in baseball last season. Mark Leiter was another Cubs reliever who has value in Saves + Holds leagues. He was among baseball’s leaders with 28 holds and he also saved four games as well.

Joe Kelly, Los Angeles Dodgers

As we saw in MLB’s definition of a hold, to record one a relief pitcher has to come into a game that his team is leading. With the firepower contained in their lineup, Dodgers relievers are probably going to be pitching with a lead much of the time. Kelly has double digit holds in each of the past three seasons and 88 in his career and he’ll likely get plenty of opportunities to add to that total. With Brusdar Graterol opening the season on the IL, Kelly also has the opportunity to pitch in save situations when Dodgers closer Evan Phillips is unavailable. 

Basically, you can pick almost any Dodgers reliever and they’ll have a good chance to record a hold. Daniel Hudson, who picked up a win on Opening Day is an intriguing option if you’re looking for a reliever who can contribute to the saves + holds category. He has 33 saves in his career. Ryan Brasier and Alex Vesia are other Dodgers relievers who are likely to be a good resource for holds. All three are projected to record double digit holds this season.

Pierce Johnson, Atlanta Braves

Like the Dodgers, the Braves are expected to win a bunch of ballgames this season giving their relief pitchers plenty of hold opportunities. As a team Braves relievers 100 holds was the fourth most in baseball last season. Johnson, who spent part of last season as the Rockies’ closer until he got traded to the Braves, had a very strong finish to his season with his new team. He recorded eight holds, pitched to a 0.76 ERA, and struck out 32 batters while walking just five in his 24 games pitching for the Braves. 

Johnson also knows how to miss bats. His 90 strikeouts last season was the ninth most by any reliever in baseball. All major projection models predict that he’ll produce double digit holds this season. Projection models expect Aaron Bummer, who had one of the worst seasons of his career last year for the lowly White Sox, to have a bounce back season pitching for the Braves. He’s had as many as 27 holds in a single season (2019) and has 85 for his career. All projection models expect him to record double digit holds this season.

Yimi Garcia, Toronto Blue Jays

With both Jordan Romano and Erik Swanson’s status for the start of the season up in the air due to injuries, Garcia may find himself as the Jays’ closer on Opening Day. However, by season’s end most of his fantasy production will probably come from the holds category. Garcia, who has 21 career saves, has recorded 41 holds over the past two seasons. All major projection models agree that he’ll record at least 14 holds this season. 

It should also be noted that the previously mentioned Swanson is not only Roman’s handcuff, but he’s been a very good resource for holds as well. He had 29 last season, which was the fourth most in baseball. Tim Mayza is another Blue Jays reliever you should consider rostering if you play in a saves + holds league. He has 74 holds over the past four seasons.

Scott Barlow, Cleveland Guardians

There have been rumors that the Guardians may trade Emmanuel Clase, their star closer, before the end of the season. That makes Barlow, his handcuff, extremely valuable as a reliever who has 56 career saves on his resume. Barlow had a career worst 4.37 ERA, but the major projection models agree that he’ll bounce back with an ERA below four and he’ll potentially record double digit holds.

Colin Poche, Tampa Bay Rays

Poche has quietly been one of the more effective relief pitchers in baseball over the first three seasons of his career. He has 10 career saves and 61 career holds. He picked up 12 wins in relief last season and his 2.23 ERA was the lowest of his career. 

Tyler Rogers, San Francisco Giants

Rogers’ 30 holds last season was the second most in baseball and it was the second time in his career that he hit that milestone. He has 18 career saves and 90 career holds. He doesn’t strikeout many batters, (6.74 career K/9) but his brother Taylor Rogers does, (10.64 K/9). Taylor Rogers is another Giants reliever who’s proven to be a good resource for holds and also has closer experience. Taylor Rogers has 83 career saves and 98 career holds.

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros

The Astros are another team that is expected to be very competitive this season, giving their relievers many opportunities to pitch with a lead. Pressly finds himself in the unfamiliar position of being a setup man this season behind Josh Hader. Pressly’s still got a lot left and he’ll most certainly record hold totals in the double-digit range. 

Bryan Abreu had been considered Pressly’s setup man when he was the Astros’ closer, and he’ll still get his fair share of opportunities to pitch in late inning high leverage situations. He recorded 24 holds last season and the major projection models expect him to record close to 20 this season.

Brooks Raley, New York Mets

Raley is another effective reliever who is often overlooked but he’s been extremely valuable in saves + holds leagues over the past two seasons, recording 47 holds. He has 62 for his career and 12 career saves as well. Adam Ottavino is another Mets reliever who is expected to post double digit holds this season. He has 179 for his career to go along with his 45 career saves.