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Trade Tactics, Part 2: Kyle Barraclough

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The Marlins are in a position to sell high on Claw in the middle of his career year.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Tactics is a weekly series covering 2018 trade candidates on the Miami Marlins and their potential destinations. We cover each player by completing a breakdown of the player skills and his strengths and weaknesses. We also identify potential trade sites and reasonable trades that could be completed with those teams.

Painful as it sometimes is to lose recognizable players, our hope is that you enjoy this upcoming time period and the moves that allow this franchise evolve into a world championship contender. Please include your comments and potential trade ideas as its great to hear from the fans as well.


Exhibit B: Kyle Barraclough

The Marlins acquired Kyle Barraclough in return for Steve Cishek prior to the 2015 MLB trade deadline. We all are familiar with how important and effective Cishek was to the team, racking up 94 saves (third-most in franchise history). At the time, Barraclough was considered a light return, somebody who wasn’t highly regarded as a prospect and had zero major league experience.

Three years later, he has come full circle. The 28-year-old right-hander is closing for the Fish and doing so very effectively. Unlike with Cishek, the front office is in a position to sell high on Claw—he’s in his prime, under control long term and has shown flashes of future brilliance.

Trading away an All-Star-caliber player would sting in the moment, but certainly bring impactful young talent to the farm system as the Marlins build toward playoff contention in a few years.

San Francisco Giants v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Barraclough has been an effective bullpen weapon since the day he showed up in the majors. One key to that is his unique repertoire. He sports a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball and wipeout slider that’s averaging just 79.1 mph this season, according to Statcast. It’s among the largest velocity differentials in baseball between those two pitches. The mid-to-high 80’s changeup provides an important change of pace, too.

After beginning 2018 in a setup role, Barraclough is thriving as Marlins closer. Overall, he has only given up 10 hits this year in 36 13 innings along with 39 strikeouts (0.99 ERA). He has been special in every sense of the word.

Current/Future Tool Grades

Fastball: 65/60

Slider: 65/65

Changeup: 45/55

Command: 45/50

Overall: 55/55

Strengths

Claw can succeed in any relief situation because he flashes two dominant pitches.

Brooks Baseball

Opponents have combined for a microscopic .106 batting average against his fastball this season. It’s been even more of a mismatch against the slider (.077 BAA).

His fastball has significant life and this allows him to utilize it on corners and also working at multiple levels of the strike zone. The life on that pitch is the actual reason it grades out so well, regardless of how it rates on the radar gun.

His slider has two-plane break with great depth at times, but he can also tighten it up so it can have a sharper, more biting break. This is the pitch that makes him special.

Barraclough’s changeup complements his heater because he throws it with the required 7-10 mph differential to get batters to swing out in front. This offspeed weapon has late, disappearing action much like his fastball. It will never grade out as high as his other two pitches, but it is not to be underestimated. The .080 BAA is evidence of that.

Weaknesses

Barraclough’s weaknesses start and end with one word: control. He really has shown great proficiency and growth as a seventh-round reliever that rose to a lights-out closer. This is all true, but until this control is refined, he has more room for growth.

Kyle Barraclough MLB Stats, 2015-2018

Season Team K/9 BB/9 K/BB K% BB% K-BB%
Season Team K/9 BB/9 K/BB K% BB% K-BB%
2015 Marlins 11.10 6.66 1.67 30.6 % 18.4 % 12.2 %
2016 Marlins 14.00 5.45 2.57 36.9 % 14.4 % 22.6 %
2017 Marlins 10.36 5.18 2.00 26.6 % 13.3 % 13.3 %
2018 Marlins 9.66 4.21 2.29 28.3 % 12.3 % 15.9 %
FanGraphs

Though his BB/9 has improved from 5.18 to 4.21 and his walk rate dropped from 13.3 to 12.3, these remain really high for a guy finishing out games. The best closers will be around 10 percent, tops.

Another red flag in 2018 is the .103 BABIP. The honest truth is that it’s unsustainable, regardless of how a pitcher generates weak contact or who the fielders are behind him. I hope I’m wrong, but one thing that we commonly observe about BABIP is that it normalizes around the same point every year (between .295 to .300) without too much variance from player to player.

Potential Trade Destinations: Dodgers

The Dodgers have a multi-use pen, but they lack high-level performance at the back end beyond Josh Fields (currently on the DL) and Kenley Jansen. They aspire to be a playoff team, so it’s imperative to add proven arms, following the lead of the Nationals and their acquisition of Kelvin Herrera.

Claw would represent a significant improvement for L.A., and that’s why preliminary talks are already underway, according to MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi.

The Trade: C Will Smith, IF/OF Connor Joe and RHP Dennis Santana

Santana is a high-level arm that is currently injured, but throws hard and has No. 2 starter potential. He has solid command, though it needs to improve to reach his ceiling. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the fifth-best prospect in the Dodgers system.

Will Smith (No. 9 prospect) is a defense-first catcher who has hitting aptitude and will likely improve in that area as he ascends through the minors. He serves as insurance for the Marlins at that position in case J.T. Realmuto is traded.

Connor Joe (unranked) is a Derek Dietrich type, but younger. He has advanced strike zone management skills and this year has showed pop. Joe turns 26 next month, but can’t do much better than his .312/.433/.581 slash line this season between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Potential Trade Destinations: Indians

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Even with a stranglehold on the AL Central division, Cleveland’s bullpen is a mess and there are some staggeringly bad metrics here—five relievers with over 1.30 WHIP, only one reliever with an ERA under 3.00, and only one regular reliever producing above replacement level. The team’s bullpen record is 5-14 with a 5.17 ERA.

They need somebody like Barraclough and realize it. ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) expects the Indians to swing a trade for a controllable arm, considering that both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen head for free agency next winter. This happens to be a tremendous fit for all parties involved.

The Trade: C/OF Francisco Mejía and RHP Elijah Morgan

Mejía, the No. 1 Indians prospect, is a polished bat with extremely high-level bat-to-ball skills and strike zone recognition skills. Additional pop should develop over time (turns 23 years old in October).

Morgan (No. 28) has held hitters to below a .200 average this season in High-A and this a strong predictor of future performance. He is a control artist as well, only walking 17 batters and striking out 100 in 84 23 innings. The right-hander will soon be due for another promotion.

This is the best return that Miami can reasonably expect for Barraclough. It takes advantage of a desperate trade partner who values his performance and controllability above everything else.


We hope you enjoyed this installment of the trade tactics series here at Fish Stripes. Stay tuned next week when we cover Justin Bour and Dan Straily.