New York Yankees Analytics: Kyle Barraclough could be a diamond in the rough

New York Yankees, Kyle Barraclough
Sep 10, 2019; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Kyle Barraclough (45) delivers against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the sixth inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees — With Spring Training off and running, one player I’m excited to watch as it progresses is Kyle Barraclough. While the Yankees signed Barraclough to a minor league deal, they did give him an invite to Spring Training. Barraclough is an interesting player to look at, as his career line is rather friendly; 3.53 ERA / 3.84 FIP / 11.38 K/9, but when you take a look at his last two years’ worth, there’s not a whole lot to like. Not long ago, he was thought to be one of the more dominant arms in the National League, as, during his stay with the Marlins, he was electric.

Barraclough, back in his prime stretch of 2015-2017, saw his fastball sit at around 95 MPH, and he was able to power that past hitters and mix it with his buckling slider. Aaron Boone specifically thinks there’s a lot to like about Barraclough, as he referred to him as being “not far removed from one of the best relievers in baseball,” of course, with some tweaks, back during his first appearance in Pinstripes in the Spring debut game. Thus far, in two Spring appearances, Barraclough has struck out four and given up a hit that would later come across to score and has walked two. The stuff is still disgusting, as he is continuing to register swing and misses frequently. The main down with Barraclough is that he wasn’t on a team last year, as he went unsigned following a chaotic 2019 season.

When acquired by the Nationals back in the 2018 offseason, there was wide belief that the Nats snagged one of the more dominant arms out of relief, despite the fact that he had a down year. Barraclough’s 2018 splits were the worst he had put together in a Marlins uniform, as his ERA & FIP alone both jumped over a point from his 2017 season (3.00 ERA & 3.66 FIP in ’17, 4.20 ERA & 4.98 FIP in ’18). Nonetheless, Washington got him at a bargain, as they only had to send Miami some international signing money, and I was amongst those that believed they had got a diamond in the rough. Unfortunately, it was anything but that for them, as Barraclough ended up having a disastrous campaign which resulted in them DFA’ing him in August of 2019. Below is a comparison of how his 2019 season with Washington looked, compared to the previous 4 in South Beach (info via Fangraphs):

2015-2018 218.2 3.21 / 3.45 11.5 5.5 70.1% 10%
2019 *MIA 25.2 6.66 / 6.56 10.5 4.2 74% 23.5%
2019 *SFG 8.0 2.25 / 5.71 11.3 10.1 62.1% 16.7%

I also decided to include his brief stint with the Giants at the end of the 2019 season to show that he did turn it around somewhat. As one can see, his time in Washington was a train wreck. Nearly every single one of his basic stats and his advanced peripherals took a step backward in 2018, but a far more costly and exaggerated one the following season. The biggest thing to look for with Barraclough is seeing how he can locate his fastball, which has been dipping in velocity over the past few years. In 2016, his average 4seam MPH was 96.2, and at the end of 2019, it sat at 93.4, after declining every year in between. If he is able to work on location and deception and throw his slider more than he may have in the past, he can be a great piece for this team this season.

Additionally, he’s been giving up an exuberant amount of hard-hit contact since his 2018 stumble of a year. In 2018, his HH% jumped from 26.5% the year before to 34.2%. Ultimately, his 2019 HH% given up sat at 42.6%. For a pitcher of his quality to be giving up nearly half of his pitches off the bat at HH levels is essentially allowing every hitter to be Bryce Harper when the ball comes off the bat. His HR% & Contact % over his final two seasons also indicate that he wasn’t nearly as successful as he was during his prime days prior. Nonetheless, if he is able to tweak a few things and work on location with his now less powerful fastball, I anticipate a quality year from him.

I’m not anticipating Barraclough making the opening day roster unless there is to be an injury in the bullpen. As of right now, he’s on the outside looking in, but if he is to stay on the roster as a minor leaguer, that could be a fantastic fallback piece for a potentially young front end bullpen (Loaisiga, King, Cessa, Nelson, Schmidt — prior to his injury — all looking for a spot). To have Barraclough, who has compiled 250+ innings in five seasons worth of MLB action as a backup plan, is a luxury most teams do not or cannot have. There’s no denying his stuff and abilities, as there’s still plenty of gas left in the tank. It’ll be interesting to see if he decides to stick with the Pinstripes if he isn’t named to the OD roster, but I believe he’s a dark horse candidate for a spot as is. Assuming he can break the roster, with his electric movement and raw stuff, he could be a great piece in a very dependable bullpen.

Unfortunately, in today’s era of baseball, there is both a far greater emphasis on the flashy signings and focus on the guys that throw 100+ or hit home runs, so naturally, a bounce-back candidate won’t be labeled a “big” signing by many. However, assuming Barraclough is to bounce back and contribute to this team in one way or another, there can be no gripes over this deal. Perhaps the second time around, a fresh start and a team with championship aspirations could be just what Barraclough needs to rekindle that once-dominant arm. Maybe this is the time he’s a diamond in the rough, and let’s hope he can contribute tenfold as the first go to this team.