The shift in MLB to a reliever based game has altered the fantasy landscape as well. For those leagues that now reward relievers by adding Holds as a tallied category, who should owners target in 2017?
Instead of just awarding saves to closers, holds have become a popularized fantasy stat. While Holds are one of the more fickle stats in the game, it does not change the fact that it is a category being rewarded.
Here are the holds target fantasy owners should be targeting on each team in the N.L. Central.
After losing Aroldis Chapman in free agency, the team pivoted to acquire Wade Davis to close. Davis has battled some injuries lately but will surely enter the season as the team’s closer. Following him is a ton of depth with Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, and the newly acquired, Koji Uehara.
It is not a stretch to envision all four of these guys notching 20+ HLD next season. But, in terms of drafting, Rondon and Strop are the two best options worth picking.
St. Louis Cardinals
No one could have expected Trevor Rosenthal to fall on his face like he did in 2016. But, possibly even a bigger shock was just how dominant Seung Hwan Oh was last season. He finished the year with a 1.93 ERA/19 SV/14 HLD/103 K line, easily earning him the closer role in 2017.
The late-inning bridge to Oh will be made up of Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist and Brett Cecil. No one knows what version of Rosenthal will show up, the Cards do plan to use him as a multi-inning reliever this season. But he should be avoided on draft day. Siegrist had 17 HLD last season, so he would be the one to draft and the team paid Cecil handsomely so look for him to get his fair share of opportunities as well.
Like as in the situation in Kansas City, Tony Watson’s promotion to being a closer takes away one of the best HLD options over the last few seasons off the board. The team will rely on him once again, but will also rely on the new duo of Daniel Hudson and Felipe Rivero to form a late inning bridge.
Hudson has one of the best arms in the game but got hit hard last season to the tune of a 5.22 ERA. Maybe the move to Pittsburgh will help, but fantasy owners can not draft him. Rivero, on the other hand, is very interesting.
He was solid after coming over to the Pirates in the Melancon deal and finished the year with a 4.09 ERA/92 K/26 HLD line. He could get some SV chances, but the team will need someone to take on the role that Watson used to fill. Making Rivero one of the best HLD fliers this season.
The Brewers brought in Neftali Feliz to be the closer after his bounceback year with the Pirates. That will push incumbent Corey Knebel to a set-up role. Knebel had his ups and downs last season, 4.68 ERA over 32 innings, but could be a serviceable HLD option next season. Just not one to draft.
Same goes for Carlos Torres who was great for the Brewers last season and is next in line, 2.73 ERA/20 HLD, but just lacks the upside worth taking in the draft.
The Reds are going to be bad this season, meaning each and every one of their relievers takes a hit fantasy wise. Unfortunately, Raisel Iglesias, the team’s best pitcher and presumed closer, suffered a weird injury that puts the start of his season in question.
That leaves Drew Storen, Michael Lorenzen and Tony Cingrani left for the latter innings. Storen would likely be the team’s closer entering the year, leaving HLD chances to Lorenzen and Cingrani. Neither of whom should be drafted.
For the most part, fantasy owners are not aggressively targeting non-closers unless they provide substantial value elsewhere. Typically those in holds leagues are targeting set-up men hoping they are the next in line if the team’s closer goes down or struggle. But, the game continues to offer plenty of options that can prove to be the weekly difference.