Blue Jays: Ranking the top 10 relief pitchers in the AL East in 2023

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5: Clay Holmes, New York Yankees

There was a point in the 2022 season where it looked like Clay Holmes might have been the best reliever in baseball. Through his first 39.1 innings of the season, he only allowed two earned runs, which was good for a 0.46 ERA. His stuff looked electric and batters simply couldn't touch him. Then the wheels fell off. In his final 24.1 innings , Holmes had a staggering 5.92 ERA, raising his season total to 2.54. Despite this nightmare finish, he bounced back in the postseason, allowing only five base runners and no runs in six innings to cap off his 2022 campaign.

Because of the huge disparity between Holmes' first and second half last year, there's a pretty broad range of opinions. While it's definitely fair to have some level of concern considering how disastrous his second half was, he's shown enough that he deserves this top-five ranking. For starters, he's got an elite sinker, which he used over 80% of the time last season. It averages 97 MPH but touches triple digits, has a ton of bite, and might be one of the best pitches in all of baseball. The rest of the time he uses his slider, which oftentimes acts more like a sweeping curve. It too is an outstanding pitch and plays perfectly off of his sinker. He's got some really good statcast numbers too, with his xERA and xBA sitting in the mid-90 percentiles and his xSLUG and barrel rate sitting in the 99th and 100th percentiles respectively.

Holmes is far from a lock to go back to his early 2022 form in 2023, but if he's even half of that, he'd be one of the best relievers in the game. With long-time closer Aroldis Chapman gone, the job appears to be all Holmes' and in what's shaping up to be a very tight division, he'll have a chance to show how good he really is in 2023.