by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We all know that the San Diego Padres’ rotation is a debacle, and that should mean opportunities for any number of potential emerging starters. On Opening Night 22-year old righty Walker Lockett made his case. Never heard of him? You likely aren’t alone, so let’s take a look and get to know a pitcher who could make an impact before long:
Preseason – Not Ranked
Throws – Right-Handed
Age – 22 (turns 23 in May)
It was obviously a quick climb in ’16, as he featured control and groundballs to get the job done. The question centered around his strikeout rate, though in his first start of ’17 he showed off an ability to generate swings and misses as he whiffed 8 batters. Considering he coupled that with 0 BB and a 4.00 GO/AO, if don’t already know his name you are going to want to pay attention.
It’s easy to lose track of him in what has become a farm system flush with talent, but Lockett has clearly taken a step in the right direction. His main weapon is a sinker, as you’d expect, which Jeff Sanders of The San Diego Union-Tribune (click here for the article) described as, “a sinking, two-seam fastball with quite a bit of movement out of his low, three-quarters slot, a weapon that Lockett learned to trust more and more as the good outings piled up”.
Current Padres’ catcher Austin Hedges, who caught the 6’5” Lockett in the minor leagues, had the following to say in the article:
“Anyone that has a sinker that’s that good – especially from a guy that that’s tall — he gets good tilt and his ball moves a lot. So any time you have a fastball with command to both sides of the plate with that kind of movement, it makes game-calling easy because you can throw a lot of fastballs and know that the worst-case scenario when you fall behind is you can throw that sinker and get a ground ball.”
Whether he does take another step forward or not remains to be seen, for now, but he certainly got things started the right way. Considering the names the team is marching out there and the fact that Lockett is already on the 40-man roster, it’s only a matter of when he gets his opportunity. If he can show that he’s going to maintain this type of strikeout rate, the process will be expedited.
You do have to wonder if he will become too reliant on his sinker, though you put that type of control and groundball rate in Petco Park and at worst you have a pitcher who should thrive at home. If the strikeouts remain? You have an under-the-radar weapon who can make his presence felt quickly.
Current Grade – C+
Upside Grade – B
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs, San Diego Union-Tribune