Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up next is relief pitcher Scott Barlow.
Nothing has come easy for KC Royals reliever Scott Barlow, but he slid into the closer role in the second half of 2021 and made it his own.
Through the Royals’ first 80 games of the season, the right-hander logged 37 appearances with two saves and a 2.08 ERA. Over the team’s final 82 games, Barlow added another 34 appearances and 14 more saves, including eight from Aug. 26 through the end of the season.
Barlow had six blown saves on the year, but converted 10 of his last 11 chances. Three times the team came back to win on the six occasions Barlow blew saves, and he posted a 5-3 record by season’s end.
His efforts earned him the Royals’ 2021 Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year Award.
Now entering his age-29 season, Barlow spent his first eight professional campaigns in the Dodger organization as primarily a starting pitcher, reaching as high as Triple-A in 2017. Allowed to become a free agent, Barlow signed with the Royals in December 2017. He began the 2018 season in Omaha, starting 13 of his 16 appearances there.
Barlow made six appearances for the Royals in 2018 and, after a few games in Omaha, came to Kansas City full time in 2019. In his first two full seasons as a Royal, he posted three saves in 93 appearances, mostly in middle relief.
How Baseball Reference and FanGraphs project the KC Royals’ Scott Barlow.
Baseball Reference projects a bit of regression for Barlow, which suggests more of a bullpen-by-committee approach for the Royals. BR has Barlow posting a 3.60 ERA with seven saves and a 4-3 record in 70 innings. Fan Graphs (Depth Chart version) expects Barlow to continue as the club’s closer with 27 saves, but a 3.67 ERA in 74 appearances.
How will reliever Scott Barlow actually perform for the 2022 KC Royals?
By establishing himself as a late-inning stalwart, Barlow can look forward to entering the season as the incumbent closer for the Royals. By knowing when to expect to pitch, he can develop a rhythm that should serve him well and help develop consistency for his fourth full big league season.
Save totals for a closer are dependent on the overall club’s performance, but expect Barlow to be closer to 25 saves or more. His ERA may not hold at the 2.42 he logged in 2021, but Barlow has certainly become a capable reliever, and his ERA stayed comfortably below 3.00 for the rest of the season after he gave up three runs in an early-season appearance.
Unless things change drastically, expect Scott Barlow to continue to have not only some of the best hair in baseball, but also more of the same tenacity on the mound that’s made him a quality closer for the Royals. Barlow seemed to find himself in 2021; look for him to strengthen his claim to the club’s closer role in 2022.