The Royals signed former Dodgers minor league RHP Scott Barlow to a split contract yesterday offering him a 40-man roster spot and a chance at earning $650,000. The 6’3” Barlow pitched in the Dodgers organization last year splitting time between AA Tulsa and AAA Oklahoma City as a starting pitcher. The Dodgers took him out of Golden Valley High School in California in the 6th round of the 2011 draft.
Barlow is an interesting prospect because he was allowed to reach free agency by the Dodgers after a great showing at AA, and ranked as the number one MiLB free agent according to Chris Mitchell’s KATOH projection system at FanGraphs.
Barlow had multiple games in which he reached double digit strikeouts as a starter and struck out 28% of the hitters he faced last season. Barlow had an outstanding year at Tulsa (AA), but not so great of an audition at Oklahoma City (AAA). Royals minor league fans would have had a chance to see Barlow at Northwest Arkansas, but he never faced Omaha. I saw Barlow make a playoff start last year against NWA’s Josh Staumont on a day in Springdale where neither was at their best. The Naturals lost and Barlow got a no-decision while Staumont didn’t make it out of the third inning.
Barlow throws his fastball in the 92-93 mph range most of the time. At times, Barlow pushes the ball and doesn’t stay on top of it, eliminating that tilt that you want when you use the term “throwing downhill.” This doesn’t mean he won’t have success, but data shows you get more outs with north to south movement than without. Barlow has a good change-up which he really used well in 2017. He does a good job turning the ball over to get sink and arm-side run which moves the ball away from the barrels of LHHs. When Barlow stays on top of this pitch, it is really deceptive. He also uses a 12-6 curve to offset the balance of hitters. He can throw this pitch for a strike easily and it allows him to get ahead of hitters. His out pitch is his slider, which has late, hard break to the glove side and often ends up in the dirt. Hitters do not recognize it well end up chasing it. As the issue with most guys who aren’t downhill throwers, when he pushes these pitches and doesn’t keep the fingers on top of the ball, they are elevated in a very hitable zone with little or no movement. A cement mixer as Rex Hudler would call it. That being said, this is a benefit when he elevates his fastball which Barlow does very well.
Barlow is pretty quick to the plate with runners on and will use a no-look quick-pick. He also likes to pick-off runners before he gets completely set.
Barlow had an excellent year at AA but struggled when he moved up to AAA. There were control issues at AAA which kept him from having success but he mastered those issues at AA. I’m not worried about those issues and expect him to have a solid season at AAA. This is a low risk, high reward signing for Dayton Moore and the Royals. Barlow has excelled since having Tommy John surgery in 2012 and looks to compete for a rotation job for the Royals. I doubt he breaks camp with the Royals in 2018, and he will probably start as a member of the Omaha rotation with his now teammate, Josh Staumont.