There were only a handful of relievers who pitched as well or better than Greg Holland did over the course of last season. He was one of just seven two win pitchers, and could have finished near the top of the league had he not thrown 21.2 innings at triple-A.
Holland is more-or-less a classic two pitch reliever, but he relies more on his slider than most of his peers. According to his Brooks Baseball player card, he threw his slider on 42% of his pitches last year compared to the 50% rate that he threw his fastball, which is a rather high slider to fastball ratio. In generating an astonishing 30% whiff rate even with such a high frequency, his PITCHf/x slider value of 12.2 ranked second in the league behind only Mike Adams.
Not surprisingly, Holland went to his slider much more frequently than his fastball in one and two strike counts. Getting ahead with his high velocity fastball then moving to the top notch slider provided great dividends for Holland and any fantasy owners last year. His contact percentage was third to only Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel, the top two strikeout arms in the league.
While Holland’s first 18.2 inning Major League stint in 2010 was not quite as impressive, he still kept the strikeouts at a nearly identical level. Holland toned his walks down last season, though his walk per nine ratio of 2.85 was the lowest it has ever been at any level. That leads reason to believe it will rise, but Holland should still remain a very productive reliever even with an uptick in walks. Another positive in Holland’s favor is that he performed better against left-handers than right-handers — he sported a 1.33 FIP against lefties and a 2.85 FIP against righties. That may not continue at the same rate, but success against left-handers at that level is a good sign for the future.
A 2.21 FIP is hard for any pitcher to sustain, as is a 1.80 ERA. Even so, the stellar whiff rate and velocity of Holland’s slider should leave him in the upper echelon of relievers this season. Even though Joakim Soria is the mainstay in the closer role, Holland has ample value as the final reliever on a roster. In holds leagues, Holland should be one of the first relievers targeted.
There is always the chance that Soria is traded, which could push the 26-year-old into the ninth inning, where he would immediately be at worst a tier three closer. Even if Soria stays, adding 100 strikeouts with a WHIP around 1.00 and an ERA in the 2.00’s should stabilize a roto staff as well as any other non-closer could.
While Holland’s performance will likely regress due to the expected increase in walks and rise from last year’s .250 BABIP, he is still a good bet to finish the season in the upper echelon of middle relievers. With at least some possibility of becoming closer eventually, though he would have to battle with former closer Jonathan Broxton if Soria were traded, Holland is a good reliever to draft.
Jonny Venters, for example, had a 2010 campaign similar to Holland’s first full year, and although his walk rate rose and strikeout rate declined the following season, he remained very effective across the board. Holland may not exactly repeat his 2010 season, but he has the ability to consistently be a top level reliever.
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