2021 MLB Saves Leader Bets: There may only be 10 “sure thing” closers in the MLB in 2021, making it extra important to find the right one to bet on to save the most games this season.
(Odds are courtesy of UniBet).
2021 MLB Saves Leader Bets
MLB Saves Leader Odds
- Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees (+750)
- Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox (+750)
- Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers (+800)
- Edwin Diaz, New York Mets (+1000)
- Raisel Iglesias, Los Angeles Angels (+1000)
- Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers (+1000)
- James Karinchak (+1000)
- Craig Kimbrel (+1200)
- Ryan Pressly (+1200)
- Matt Barnes (+1500)
- Rafael Montero (+1500)
Craig Kimbrel is the most prolific closer on this list in terms of leading his league or the majors in saves. He’s led the National League in saves four times, one of which he tied Jim Johnson for the MLB lead. His most recent season leading in saves was in 2014 when he had 47 saves for Atlanta, which was one save shy of tying the MLB leader Fernando Rodney.
Other former saves leaders from this list include Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen, Mets’ closer Edwin Diaz, Blue Jays’ closer Kirby Yates, Nationals’ closer Brad Hand and Brewers’ closer Josh Hader. Jansen and Hader have each led their league in saves once. Hand, Diaz and Yates have each led the MLB in saves once.
Jansen has had his issues recently, which makes him a risky pick. He is dealing with declining velocity, a declining ground ball rate and a rise in walks. He’s in the last year of his deal and the Dodgers have a lot of talented options in the bullpen who could replace Jansen as closer if he continues to decline.
Yates is coming off an elbow injury in 2020 that limited him to pitching only four innings. He should be ready to go, but the Jays may limit him as he returns from the injury.
2021 MLB Saves Leader Bet Picks
2021 MLB Saves Leader: Smart Money Bet
Liam Hendriks (+750)
Liam Hendriks has arguably been the best closer in baseball the past two seasons, and this season should be no different. It’s unlikely that he will have a sub-2 ERA for the third year in a row. He had some good fortune in the form of his BABIP and HR/FB rate – but he should still be very good. He is on what may be a top-five team in baseball, and that bodes well for Hendriks getting save opportunities. There is a good chance his team is regularly going to be in the lead by the ninth inning. The only downside is that his team may be so far ahead in some games that he will not qualify for saves.
James Karinchak (+1000)
James Karinchak is an interesting option to accrue the most saves in 2021. The Cleveland bullpen has three potential closers in Karinchak, Emmanuel Clase and Nick Wittgren, but Karinchak possesses the best combination of velocity and strikeout potential, along with a classic closer combination of pitches – fastball and cutter. Karinchak was lights out last year in relief. He picked up eight holds and had nearly an 18 K/9 rate. His walk rate will need to come down if he wants to hold the closer role for the season, but the talent and the potential are there.
2021 MLB Saves Leader: Sleeper Bets
Alex Colome (+2500)
Alex Colome is not a flashy name at closer, but he is still very good. He led the MLB in saves in 2017 as the closer for Tampa Bay. No, his metrics don’t stand out that much – he walks nearly three batters per nine innings and does not strike out a ton of batters. What he does well is limit home runs, induce ground balls, and strand runners on base. Taylor Rogers might challenge him for saves, but Colome has more experience and a solid resume at closer, and he should be Minnesota’s first choice to close out games. He’s a long shot, but putting a few bucks on Colome to lead the MLB in saves could be a smart sleeper play.
Brad Hand (+2500)
The 2020 MLB saves leader, Hand, could potentially do it again in 2021 in Washington. Some may point to declining fastball velocity and suggest that is a sign of a downward spiral for him, but his metrics suggest that does not matter very much. He was primarily a fastball/curveball pitcher in the first half of his career in Miami, but he’s since added a slider. He throws his slider nearly 10 percent more often than his fastball, and it grades as his better pitch too. He’s decreased his overall fastball usage by nearly 20 percent since 2015, so he doesn’t rely on it as much. Hand has had a sub-3 ERA in four of the last five seasons, he strikes batters out at an excellent rate, he limits home runs and he strands runners well. The Nationals have an improved offense that should keep them in games, and an improved bullpen, which should help them get the ball to Hand with the lead late in games. He also should not have much competition for saves. Hand could be a great value bet to lead the MLB in saves.
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