By: Chris Larson
Now that the calendar has officially turned to June, we are starting to get a much better understanding of what teams needs might be as the trade deadline approaches at the end of next month. In addition, we are starting to develop an idea of who might be available in those trade conversations that teams have with one another to fulfill said needs.
With the way the Miami Marlins have played to date, it should come as no surprise that they will continue their rebuild at the trade deadline as sellers. After all, the Marlins are currently in fifth place in the National League East with a 20-37 record and have the league's worst run differential (-108) so continuing to sell off assets would only make sense.
When you look at the Marlins on paper and start to identify potential trade pieces, you would probably identify guys like: Dan Straily, J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, and Starlin Castro. However, with the amount of teams that are in need of bullpen help every year at the trade deadline, you have to believe that teams are going to be calling, about one guy in particular, in the Marlins pen: Kyle Barraclough.
Even though the Marlins have the worst bullpen ERA in the National League (second worst in all of baseball to only the Cleveland Indians), there should still be plenty of interest in Barraclough. Heading into play today, the Marlins bullpen has combined for a 5.78 ERA over 216.1 IP and have the most earned runs (139), the second highest Opponent Batting Average Against (.277), and the highest WHIP (1.60) in baseball over that span. Certainly not a winning combination and that is one of the reasons why the Marlins are where they are in the standings with the worst run differential out of all 30 teams in the league.
The reason why Kyle Barraclough will draw so much attention isn't based solely on demand of other teams, but rather the solid numbers that he continues to put up year in and year out. Since making his MLB debut with the Marlins in 2015, Barraclough has posted a 2.69 ERA over 187.1 IP with a 1.25 WHIP and a 3.08 Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP). In addition, over those four years, Barraclough has a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 11.8, a home runs-per-9 rate of 0.4, and a 3.3 WAR. Just yesterday, Barraclough was named the Marlins new closer by their skipper, Don Mattingly, and it should come as no surprise based on the numbers above.
One of the best things about Barraclough is that he succeeds against both left-handed and right-handed hitters on the opposing team. Over his career, in the span of 390 plate appearances against right-handed hitters, Barraclough has an Opponent Batting Average Against of .182 and 140 strikeouts. Similarly, against left-handed hitters over the span of 395 plate appearances, Barraclough has an Opponent Batting Average Against of .179 with 105 strikeouts and a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) of .243.
Furthermore, the Marlins made a smart decision to make Barraclough their new closer because not only does that help to increase his trade value at the deadline, he has also proven himself in save situations in the past. Over the span of 78 games where there has been a save situation, Barraclough has a 2.91 ERA over those 74.1 IP with a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 10.9, a .195 Opponent Batting Average Against, and a .275 BABIP. Many teams are going to gravitate towards numbers like that simply because they will like Barraclough's track record in those situations and know that he has proven himself over a wide sample size of innings. Essentially, contending teams will know exactly what they are buying rather than going with someone who has been unproven in those situations and simply throwing them into the fire, while they're in the midst of a pennant race.
Over the course of the past four seasons, Barraclough has really established the reputation of being a ground ball and fly ball pitcher with a pitch repertoire that includes a fastball, slider, and changeup. Here is Barraclough's pitch type chart for the last four regular seasons courtesy of FanGraphs:
Comparing last season to this year based on the chart, Barraclough is throwing his fastball nearly the same amount of time, but has experienced a slight drop in velocity on it (94.8 MPH last season compared to 93.5 MPH this year). Furthermore, Barraclough is throwing his slider 10% less and is relying on his changeup much more often (13.4% of the time this season compared to 4.4% of the time last year).
In addition, throughout his four-year big league career, Barraclough has a groundball/fastball ratio of 1.42, which has accumulated for a groundball percentage of 45.5% and a fastball percentage of 32.0% along with a left on-base percentage of 78.3%. Here is a spray chart of Kyle Barraclough's batted balls over the past four regular seasons as well for illustration purposes.
More often than not based on the spray chart, Barraclough's pitches are in the form of ground balls, which goes hand-in-hand with his overall groundball percentage over his big league career, rather than leaving the ballpark in the form of a home run. Again, that is something that is going to be especially attractive to teams looking for a formidable back end of the bullpen piece and will suit teams, with pitcher friendly stadiums, extremely well.
To end the discussion, let's take a look at Kyle Barraclough's pitching stats by ballpark. As expected, a bulk of Barraclough's innings have come in NL East parks with the best results, happening at Citi Field, where Barraclough has a 2.13 ERA over 12.2 IP with 15 strikeouts. Barraclough also did extremely well in the Braves old home, Turner Field, where he posted a 1.13 ERA over 8 innings of work, and has still been good at SunTrust Park, with a 3.18 ERA over 5.2 IP. Granted, both of those are division rivals of the Miami Marlins, so it remains unclear if Barraclough's new home could be with either of those teams come the deadline, but both will certainly be on the lookout for additional bullpen help, if they are still contending come the trade deadline.
Outside of the NL East, Barraclough's best road ERA is at Miller Park, where the Milwaukee Brewers play. There, Barraclough has a 1.13 ERA over 8.0 IP with a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 11.3 and a 1.00 WHIP against 32 batters faced. It's not known whether or not the Brewers will be in the market for bullpen help yet, because they already have a phenomenal pen as it is, but just imagine adding Kyle Barraclough to a bullpen that is highlighted by the Josh Hader/Jeremy Jeffress/Corey Knebel trio. It would really give Milwaukee the best bullpen in the game and would boost the Brew Crews chances of playing deep into October even more, assuming they continue to play at a high enough level to clinch a postseason berth.
While the Marlins season has been a disaster, to say the least, Miami is still in the rebuild process and will continue to ship out names for prospect packages in return as the trade deadline gets closer. Although there are some bigger names on the Marlins roster that could be traded, don't sleep on Kyle Barraclough as being one of the guys, who joins the group, because there will be plenty of demand for relievers and relievers who have the track record that Barraclough does.