For all that the Los Angeles Dodgers have done right this past decade—and they’ve done a ton right—the Dodgers whiffed when it came to a particular right-handed reliever whom they unceremoniously let go from their farm system back in 2017.
That pitcher, Scott Barlow, dominated AA for the Tulsa Drillers. Still a starting pitcher at that point, the former 2011 6th-round draft pick went 6-3 over 19 starts with a 2.10 ERA and 0.904 WHIP while striking out 124 batters against just 37 walks in 107.1 innings.
Promoted to AAA Oklahoma City, he struggled over 32.1 innings—both ERA and WHIP ballooned, to 7.24 and 1.856, respectively, as his walks and home runs allowed also increased. He kept whiffing batters, though—23 over that span.
After the season, the Dodgers cut bait on the 24-year-old.
That December, he signed with the Royals.
That April, he made his major league debut with the Royals. By the following season, he became a permanent fixture in the bullpen. In 2021, he had his first excellent season as the team’s closer.
In 2022, he topped it.
.@Royals closer Scott Barlow is a great pitcher (2.24 ERA, 24 saves) with a great story.— MLB Players Media (@MLBPlayersMedia) September 30, 2022
For 3 years he lived at a campground. pic.twitter.com/jjeKQEQpwg
Once more, the Kansas City Royals find themselves with a dominant closer. Barlow, who turns 30 in December, converted 24 of 28 save opportunities to go along with six holds and a 7-4 record. For the second consecutive season, he pitched 74.1 innings of 188 ERA+ ball (2.18 this season versus 2.42 last).
Two data points went the wrong way, which is concerning, but only mildly: his home run percentage rose from 1.3% to 3.1%, which is more aligned with his career average. And his strikeout percentage dipped, but it’s still a healthy 26.6%.
Barlow also benefited from some good luck as opposing players only hit .240 against on balls put in play, well below the .315 they hit last year. But along those same lines, batters’ exit velocity dipped to 86.2. More:
- Hard hit percentage decreased from 36.8% in 2021 to a career-best 30.5%.
- Line drive percentage dipped to 18.6%, also a new career high.
- Groundball percentage increased to 46.8%.
- Flyball percentage dropped over three points to 27.1%.
Barlow also cut his walk rate to 7.6%.
Overall, batters slashed .198/.266/.324/.590 against him.
Not bad—especially for a guy languishing on a 97-loss team that doesn’t appear willing to spend this offseason.
Scott Barlow, Expelliarmus Breaking Ball. pic.twitter.com/JCAvsaD2Pq— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 20, 2022
Which begs the question—what happened at the trade deadline?
Barlow is a tantalizing trade piece, and as this offseason has shown, no bullpen is without its warts:
- The Cardinals definitely could have used his arm in their meltdown against the Phillies. Had that possibility before been brought up?
- The Yankees bullpen blew a substantial lead to the Guardians in Game 3 of the ALDS.
- In the game that got them eliminated, Barlow’s former employer gave up a fiver in the bottom of the seventh to lose to the Padres, 5-3.
- The Mariners blew a four-run lead in the eighth of their Game 1 loss to the Astros.
- That same Mariners club, only days earlier, stormed back to defeat the Blue Jays 10-9 in Game 2 of the Wild Card series after entering the sixth down seven runs.
That’s five playoff teams that could’ve used a experienced pitcher like Barlow. Why wasn’t he moved?
Regardless, he enters the offseason projected to make $4.9 million in arbitration with another year of club control after 2023. That should prove plenty desirable to contenders come next July.
Or the Royals could keep him around for the next window of contention, which hopefully begins soon.
Either way, Barlow set the—ahem—bar—ahem ahem—high in 2022 after a stellar 2021.
What grade would you give Scott Barhigh—I mean, Barlow—for his 2022 season?
This poll is closed
Come on now, really?