Greg Holland or Sean Marshall?

This is a question I have received a lot since we were made aware of Ryan Madson’s impending Tommy John surgery: who would I rather pick, Greg Holland or Sean Marshall? Some of my readers and twitter followers took my advice and picked up Holland when Joakim Soria went down, but saw that Marshall was available and wanted to know who I would rather have. Here is my take on both pitchers.

Greg Holland

Holland’s skillset and the likelihood of him being named closer has been well documented here on FanGraphs by both me and Jack Moore. Holland has received three save opportunities and came through with all of them this spring, which is at least somewhat telling of what Kansas City has in the plans for this season. He will most likely close, and he will also most likely be very effective with this opportunity. With a K/BB ratio of 3.89 last season and dominance against both lefties and righties, I have little doubt that Holland has what it takes to be a closer. His track record is slightly disconcerting however, as he only really has performed at this level in his lone Major League season. He was very effective in the minors, but not 1.80 ERA or 2.21 FIP good. He will probably walk more batters this season than he did last year, which is a slight cause for concern going forward. As I stated earlier, Holland definitely has the stuff to close and be very effective, but I don’t expect him to quite be Craig Kimbrel or John Axford right out of the gate.

Sean Marshall

Marshall has now posted back to back dominant seasons, recording a 2.28 FIP and 1.86 FIP and being worth five wins over the past two seasons. His K/BB ratio of 4.65 last year was simply incredible. He will probably allow more home runs in the future, as his 2.0% HR/FB rate is hardly repeatable. He does generate a ton of ground balls though, posting back-to-back seasons with a ground ball rate over 50%, and does very well against right-handed hitters as well. His handedness is not the reason for his success, he is simply a very good pitcher. With his great strikeout ability and command along with ground ball tendencies, Marshall is a near ideal pitcher to have in the late innings.

The Verdict

Both pitchers have another pitcher breathing down their necks or competing with them for the ninth inning job, which indicates that they do not quite have a choke hold lock on the closer position. Aroldis Chapman is obviously more of a long term threat to Marshall than Jonathan Broxton is to Holland. Marshall did sign a three year extension, which has him locked up through 2015, so if he performs well this year there is a good chance that he remains the closer through his stay in Cincinnati. The way I would play this, even with Marshall’s contract extension, is to go after Marshall in one year leagues and Holland in keeper or dynasty formats. Broxton is on just a one year deal, so even if he does become the closer this season, Holland will get a chance at some point and he is skilled enough to perform well when that opportunity comes. Again, Marshall in the short term and Holland in the long term, that’s how I would play it.




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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.


10 Responses to “Greg Holland or Sean Marshall?”

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  1. Piranha says:

    there’s no way Chapman to be a closer unless he fix his control problem. i think Marshall should be very good and he could keep holding his new role this year, at least.

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  2. Matt H says:

    I was under the impression that the Royals’ job is much more up in the air than the Reds’. Seems like Marshall is a safer pick, based on both his track record and likelihood of closing.

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    • Johnny Come Lately says:

      I agree Matt. If Broxton had been horrible this spring, or hurt, it would be one thing, but he’s a legitimate roadblock to Greg Holland getting saves. I fail to see how you can make the same argument for Chapman and Marshall. It sure seems like it’s Marshall’s job to lose. I’m not even sure if it’s Holland’s job at all, and Broxton may have to fail for Holland to even get a chance.

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    • BStu185 says:

      I agree with Matt H. I own Broxton, and Holland is a FA in my league. I’m holding with the expectation that KC will give Broxton first shot at closer to showcase his value, and then flip him to a contender at the trade deadline due to his 1 year deal.

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      • AJ says:

        Which is exactly why he is saying Holland is more of a long-term option. Did you not read it? Lol… If Holland doesn’t get the job, which is obviously a possibility, he’ll still have it by the end of the year and from then on (if he performs). Everything is pointing to him being a dominant force to reckon with and I don’t see how he would not be an ideal target in fantasy, as a 3rd (backup) closer. Marshall would not be a bad addition by ANY means… he’s solid and has the job out of the gate – but Chapman is the future and there’s no way Cinci doesn’t give him a chance at some point. And with a triple digit fastball and improved command in Spring Training, that chance could come sooner rather than later.

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  3. Adam says:

    Way to hedge it so you look right no matter what… Marshall is the easy answer.

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    • Derek says:

      Thank God you published your own article. I really didn’t want to know anything more about Holland anyway.

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  4. Dave Burke says:

    Both went undrafted in my league, being potentially light on saves (only Thornton to back up Axford) I picked them both up on hearing the news. Only afterwards did I realise the same guy in my league had drafted both Madson and Soria. OUCH!

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  5. Ender says:

    Masset is hurt and the Reds plan on keeping Chapman as a starter unless they changed their stance on it in the past couple of days. Marshall almost has that job locked down assuming he doesn’t blow up his first 3 chances.

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  6. Matty Brown says:

    I took Marshall in Ottoneu the day before news broke about Madson! I was a happy camper!

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