Their closer needs to keep on doing what he’s been doing for the KC Royals.
Manager Mike Matheny rarely uses the word “closer,” but his actions speak volumes and prove that Scott Barlow is, indeed, Kansas City’s closer.
Barlow is clearly Matheny’s first choice when the Royals lead in late-inning, high-leverage situations. Barlow, who led the majors in appearances with 32 in 2020, appeared in a career-high 71 contests last season and entered the game before the seventh inning only six times, and never after mid-May. He led the club in saves (16) and games finished (28), averaged 11 strikeouts every nine innings (a mark he’s fallen below only once in four seasons), and won the team’s Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year Award.
Barlow, who just turned 29 a few days ago, is arbitration-eligible for the first time and won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season. Unless Kansas City has designs on a major trade requiring the club to give him up, the four-pitch (slider, fastball, sinker and curve) righthander has a lock on the closer’s job as long as he continues to do it well.
And that’s precisely what he must do in 2022. With a personnel adjustment here and there and a little bit of luck, the Royals could flirt with .500 next year. But to get there—or further—the club needs a reliable closer. Barlow can’t let up.
The Royals are improving. They’ll get even better if Brady Singer, Hunter Dozier and Scott Barlow all have good 2022 seasons.