Kansas City Royals: Scott Barlow quietly one of best relievers in baseball

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Kansas City Royals pitcher Scott Barlow has quietly been one of the best relievers in baseball.

Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Scott Barlow signed with the Kansas City Royals before the 2018 season. He began the year in Triple-A Omaha as a starter and posted 5.37 ERA in 13 starts (16 appearances) but had struck out 60 batters in 53.2 innings of work.

When he was called up to the Royals on April 30, Ned Yost utilized him mostly in long relief with his first appearance tossing 3.0 innings. In fact, in the 6 appearances he made with the team last season, only once did he pitch less than 1.0 inning.

This season, he’s made 50 appearances, all out of the bullpen and has primarily been used in the 7th inning or later. He’s tossed 57.1 innings and has struck out 77 batters. His 12.09 strikeouts-per-innings is 25th best in baseball, ahead of guys named Kenley Jansen, Raisel Iglesias, and Tyler Duffey.

He and Ian Kennedy have formed a nice 1-2 punch at the back end of an otherwise lousy bullpen. Barlow has been extremely effective pitching less often, seeing his average fastball velocity jump to near 95 mph, up from 91 mph when he was utilized in long relief.

Barlow, 26, has been able to develop his sinker this season, which he’s thrown 7 percent of the time and it’s been one of his best pitches. His fastball usage is down to just 36 percent from 53 percent a year ago, which keeps hitters off balance.

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He’s relied heavily on his slider this season and it’s been working for him as batters have swung and missed more often on his pitches from last season. Again, Barlow’s development of his secondary pitches have opponents swinging for strikes at a 14 percent clip, up from 10 percent last season.