Scott Barlow on the mound for the Kansas City Royals.

Go High on Barlow

Scott Barlow spent six seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system. He was drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round. Barlow wasn’t a heralded prospect, and that never changed throughout his time with the Dodgers. Even a stellar 2017 campaign with the Double-A Tulse Drillers that was followed by a respectable Triple-A stint with the Oklahoma City Dodgers didn’t sway the needle on Barlow. That’s why the Dodgers were more than willing to let Barlow leave via free agency following the 2017 season.

The Dodgers loss has become the Kansas City Royals gain and then some. In all of his 2018 stays, from the Texas League to Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana, Barlow stayed the course as a starting pitcher. He was good in that role, but the big league club saw something in his pitch mix that they thought could turn him elite. The California native only made 6 appearances with the Royals last season, and he found himself excelling as a reliever. The Royals saw how his stuff translated, and how out of the pen he could add a little more life to his fourseam fastball and throw his slider with more sweep than he had before. Kansas City looked at his DRA- of 82.5 and said, “I think we have something here.”

That has played out in 2019 as Barlow has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. I’ll pony up to the fact that I had no idea that Barlow had established himself as being quite so dominant until I saw it in person. I was in the stands when Barlow entered a game against the Philadelphia Phillies with runners at first and second and no outs. Rhys Hoskins was Barlow’s first victim, cut down by a wicked 85mph slider.

Courtesy of Baseball Savant

A walk to J.T. Realmuto followed, and now with the bases loaded Barlow found himself facing Odúbel Herrera. The Phillies centerfielder looked overmatched all at-bat and ultimately went down swinging to a nasty 96mph fourseam fastball that beautifully tailed high and away well out of the zone. At this point, I turned to my girlfriend and said, “Damn, this is not how I expected this to go.”

Courtesy of Baseball Savant

With two outs and the bases still loaded, Phillies second baseman César Hernández dug into the batter’s box. He saw three changeups from the Royals right-hander and didn’t come close to figuring out what Barlow was throwing. Before Hernández swung through the third changeup for the final out of the inning everyone in Kauffman Stadium knew Hernández was a goner.

Courtesy of Baseball Savant

The Orange Valley High School product threw one more inning that day, striking out all three batters, Maikel Franco, Nick Williams, and Andrew McCutcheon, looking to finish his day. I came into that game knowing nothing about Scott Barlow, but I left a believer.

Barlow’s 2019 has been a gem so far. His DRA sits at 3.01 and his DRA- is an elite 64.5. In 25.2 innings pitched he’s struck out 39 and walked only 9. There is some concern with his GB% being a lowly 36, and his HR/9 sitting at 1.4. However, remove his last two games where he was knocked around a bit and his numbers across the board would be top notch. Relievers, even the very best, have bad outings, it’s just the way baseball goes. Don’t let a couple of bad outings distract from the fact that Scott Barlow has arrived and he is for real.

Lead photo courtesy of Denny Medley – USA Today

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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