Who will lead MLB in saves in '24? Here are favorites and dark horses

February 17th, 2024

There’s no shortage of elite relievers in baseball right now. From an established veteran returning from injury to a rising young star who is regularly reaching 102-103 mph with his fastball, there’s a number of closers who could lay claim to a saves title in 2024.

Who are the favorites to take home that crown this year? What about some dark horses who we may not see coming, but who nonetheless could swoop in and surprise us with a dominant showing? We asked a panel of five MLB.com writers who they think belongs in each category.


1. , RHP, Guardians
2023 SV: 44 (1st in MLB)

Clase led the Majors in saves each of the last two seasons, locking down 42 in 2022, and 44 last season. He did it with the perfect combination of quality pitching (2.29 ERA and 2.45 FIP since '22) and throwing the second-most innings (145 1/3) of any reliever. Clase doesn’t miss quite as many bats as other elite relievers -- he saw his strikeout rate drop to 21.2% in '23 -- but there’s not much to dislike. He’s young (turns 26 before Opening Day), owns top-shelf stuff, throws strikes and is as reliable as it comes for closers.

-- Brent Maguire

2. , RHP, Mets
2023 SV: 0 (N/A)

Sound the trumpets!

Díaz missed all of last season after suffering a right knee injury in the World Baseball Classic, but that can’t erase the memory of what he accomplished in 2022. He wasn’t just the best relief pitcher that year; he authored one of the most dominant seasons for a reliever in MLB history. He overpowered the competition with a 50.2% strikeout rate and a 17.1 K/9, which is the second highest for any pitcher with at least 50 innings, trailing only Aroldis Chapman’s 17.7 rate from '14. Now back to full health, Díaz will look to reign atop the saves leaderboard like he did in '18 when he notched an MLB-best 57 saves for the Mariners.

-- Brian Murphy

3. , RHP, Brewers
2023 SV: 36 (T-5th in MLB)

After trading ace starter Corbin Burnes, there’s a chance the Brewers will do the same with Williams at some point this year, and the potential that he’ll be dealt to a team that already has a set closer makes this a somewhat risky pick. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to take one of the most dominant relievers in baseball here. With his signature “Airbender” changeup proving virtually untouchable, Williams ranks first in MLB in ERA (1.75), first in batting average allowed (.145), third in FIP (2.26) and third in strikeout rate (40.5%) since the beginning of 2020 (minimum 150 innings).

-- Thomas Harrigan

4. , RHP, Twins
2023 SV: 27 (15th in MLB)

Can you go wrong by picking a 6-foot-5, 230-pound flamethrower whose average heater is an MLB-best 101.8 mph? The 26-year-old Duran is more than just velo, though, as he also uses two offspeed pitches equally -- a nasty curve (.184 xwOBA in 2023) and a filthy “splinker” (.238) -- to toy with batters trying to gear up for the four-seamer. No wonder he owns a 2.15 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and a 12.0 K/9 for his career so far. After taking over ninth-inning duties for the Twins last year, Duran enters the season with a clear path to the closer role for the first time, so he’s poised for a career-high saves total.

-- Jason Catania

5. , LHP, Astros
2023 SV: 33 (8th in MLB)

Somehow, Hader hasn’t led his league, let alone the Majors, in saves in any season of his career to this point. But when he’s on, he’s nearly unhittable. He’s also joining a new club on a five-year, $95 million contract -- the Astros. Houston is a perennial candidate to make a deep postseason run, and that means that in the regular season, Hader will likely get plenty of chances to close out games with a save.

Coming off a year in which he posted a 1.28 ERA and struck out 36.8% of opposing batters -- who hit just .163 against him -- 2024 could finally be the year that the five-time All-Star leads baseball in saves if he can make a smooth transition to Houston.

-- Manny Randhawa

Dark Horses

How did we define a dark horse candidate, given how much turnover there is at the closer position? For our purposes here, there were two criteria. The pitcher in question just needed to have fallen short of both of the following marks:

  • 20-plus saves in 2023
  • 30-plus saves in 2022

1. , RHP, Mariners
2023 SV: 13 (T-27th in MLB)

The Mariners’ trade of Paul Sewald to the D-backs last summer opened the door for Muñoz to take over as Seattle’s closer, and he responded by collecting 11 saves in 13 chances with a 2.96 ERA over 27 appearances following the deal. Muñoz hasn’t been the picture of health in his career, but his stuff is utterly dominant, as evidenced by his 98th percentile ranking in average fastball velocity (98.9 mph) and 99th percentile ranking in whiff rate (39.4%) a year ago. Add in his sky-high ground-ball rate (59% in 2023), and you have someone who is going to be incredibly difficult to score against as he enters his first full season as a closer.

-- Thomas Harrigan

2. , LHP, Marlins
2023 SV: 12 (T-30 in MLB)

By expected ERA -- which is based on the quality and quantity of contact against a pitcher -- Scott’s 2.50 figure trailed only three qualified pitchers in 2023 (Félix Bautista, Tarik Skubal and Josh Hader). After years of flashing elite stuff and equally maddening command, Scott shaved his walk rate by 8.1% in '23 -- by far the largest drop of any qualified pitcher. Scott should have a firm grasp on the Marlins’ closer role for '24, making him a prime candidate to rack up a boatload of saves for a Miami team trying to make it two straight playoff appearances.

-- Brent Maguire

3. , RHP, Angels
2023 SV: 1 (T-113th in MLB)

After being traded from the Pirates to the Rays on June 2 last season, Stephenson recorded 60 strikeouts and only eight walks over 38 1/3 innings. From that date, he led the league in expected wOBA (.212) and finished third in K rate (43.8%) among pitchers who faced at least 100 batters. Leading with a diabolical cutter/slider and his high-90s heater, Stephenson limited batters to a .487 OPS. New Angels manager Ron Washington could preserve the status quo in the bullpen and keep Carlos Estévez as the closer. But if Washington wants his best reliever working in the ninth, he should give that gig to Stephenson.

-- Brian Murphy

4. , RHP, Cardinals
2023 SV: 14 (26th in MLB)

If not for a right forearm injury that limited Helsley to 33 games a year ago, he likely wouldn’t be eligible as a dark-horse candidate here. While he wasn’t quite as dominant as he was in his breakout 2022 (1.25 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 13.1 K/9, 19 SV), Helsley still was plenty great when healthy (2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 12.8 K/9, 14 SV), leaving little doubt he’ll own the final three outs for the Cardinals. The 29-year-old gets it done with a fastball that has some of the best rise in baseball, especially at its triple-digit velocity, and a hard slider that generated 32 strikeouts against only six hits last year.

-- Jason Catania

5. , RHP, Rangers
2023 SV: 4 (T-54th in MLB)

Coming off a postseason in which he made some big pitches and picked up some big saves for the Rangers to help Texas win its first World Series title, Leclerc is going to get a chance to prove he can be the club’s everyday closer in 2024. He’ll have to beat out veteran David Robertson, but the opportunity is there for the taking.

Leclerc was excellent during the 2023 regular season as well, posting a 2.68 ERA and a 28.8% strikeout rate over 57 relief appearances. In the playoffs, he pitched to a 3.29 ERA in 13 appearances, including three scoreless outings in the World Series. That included a save in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over the D-backs in Game 3. If Leclerc proves his mettle this spring and early on during the season, Texas should give him plenty of opportunities to rack up the saves.

-- Manny Randhawa