2019 Stats: .250/.357/.340, 22 HBP, 17-for-17 in stolen base attempts, 250 PA, .9 bWAR & fWAR
2019 Salary: $555,000.00
2020 Salary: Pre-arbitration until 2022
If we had polled Diamondbacks fans during Spring Training 2019 for the most probable “cult hero” of the season, I would highly doubt that Tim Locastro would have earned even a single vote. Most every team has that player who clearly isn’t their best and wouldn’t be considered the face of the franchise, yet every time that player steps on the field he provides meaningful contributions and becomes an instant fan favorite. Examples include Daniel Descalso and his clutch hitting in Arizona in 2017 & 2018 and Wilmer Flores with the New York Mets before he came to the desert. They’re not the best players on the team. They don’t play every day, but they make it count when they do. Heck, Tim Locastro had a total 15 plate appearances in the Majors in the two seasons prior to 2019 and began the season assigned to the AAA Reno Aces. It’s obvious that he was this season’s “cult hero” for the Diamondbacks. I can’t be wrong in my thinking because you, the voters, ranked Locastro at #10 on the list of players despite him being sent back down to Reno three times during the season.
Tim Locastro made his MLB debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers scum back in 2017 which makes his success in the Arizona desert all the better. Los Angeles traded Locastro to the New York Yankees one month after the conclusion of the 2018 season for minor league filler, who then flipped Locastro to the D’backs just prior to the start of Spring Training.
Heading into Spring the chances for him to earn MLB playing time with Arizona were very slim. The team was just beginning to decide between Ketel Marte or Socrates Brito in center, David Peralta had left on lock, Steven Souza Jr.’s knee was still intact, and Jarrod Dyson and Adam Jones would be available off the bench. However, health and performance are never guaranteed, and within 10 days of the start of the season Locastro was called up to the MLB squad.
From there we were witness to a highly entertaining, and one of my favorite, styles of play. In an era of “juiced baseballs” flying out of the yard at an alarming rate, Tim Locastro’s power was nonexistent. He’d entered 2019 without a single MLB home run in his career and would finish the season with only one. Instead he used his speed, as the fastest player in the Majors, and his otherworldly ability to attract baseballs to his body to prop up his on base percentage to a respectable .357 figure. That would be third best on the team among players with as many plate appearances as him. Statcast has Tim Locastro’s sprint speed at 30.8 feet per second, best in the league for 2019. League average was just around 27 ft/sec. Elite foot speed only goes so far, though. Some of the game’s fastest players can’t harness that potential on the basepaths and make too many mistakes, but not Tim Locastro. He was a perfect 17-for-17 in stolen base attempts, setting a National League rookie record for attempts without being caught.
However, it wasn’t just only his elite speed but also his knack for getting hit by pitches which took him to “cult hero” fan favorite. In only 250 plate appearances, Locastro set the D’backs franchise record for being hit by pitches at 22 also good enough for fourth in the league. Further evidence of his budding “cult hero” status came in a series against the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada with his family in attendance wearing HBP counting shirts to which the broadcast crew attempted to purchase. It reached a head on May 24th against the San Francisco Giants when he was struck three times at the plate tying an MLB record for HBP in a single game.
The secret behind Tim Locastro's team-record 13 hit-by-pitches in the first half?— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) July 11, 2019
It's all in the hips. pic.twitter.com/6ZG9xOF9De
“Growing up, getting on base was the only thing I ever really worried about and that’s what we were sort of preached to do,” he said. “I just tried to continue it and never really stopped. That’s my game: Get on base, steal a base, score runs. That’s what I’m gonna do.”
It should be no surprise, then, that with Locastro’s unmatched speed in the outfield he was able to make some spectacular defensive plays. The following play from July 21st earned him a nomination for SnakePit Defensive Play of the Year.
What kind of cult hero would Tim Locastro be if it weren’t him to put the exclamation point on the season finale? On September 29th in the final game of the season, the Diamondbacks found themselves locked in a 0-0 tie against the San Diego Padres. The game was on its way to extra innings as Arizona had a runner on third with two outs, but Locastro had different plans. True to form, in the purest way, Locastro used his blazing speed to beat out a ground ball hit to the left side of the infield securing the 1-0 victory for Arizona.
Despite his undisputed success in a small sample in 2019, Tim Locastro will likely have to earn his hacks again in 2020 as a fourth outfielder. Jarrod Dyson, Steven Souza Jr., and Adam Jones, while still unsigned, have departed the team. That leaves Mike Hazen with only Locastro, David Peralta, and Ketel Marte as true outfielders and likely in the market for another, if not two. The thing about Locastro’s ability to get on base by getting hit by pitches is that it is an unpredictable if not hard to repeat skill. Opposing pitchers will likely adjust by pitching him on the opposite side of the plate going forward, anticipating him to put the ball on the left side of the infield and hope to have enough arm strength to beat him out at first. However, they then run the risk of walking him too much which will allow him to cause havoc on the basepaths. That is unless he can take his game to another level and get the ball in the air more, shades of Ketel Marte and even Jarrod Dyson last season. Anything is possible, and it will be fun to watch him regardless.