2020 Stats: 82 PA, .290/.395/.464, .859 OPS, 135 wRC+, Sprint Speed: 30.7 (ft/Sec)
2020 Salary: Pre Arb League Minimum
2021 Status: Final Year Pre Arb League Minimum, 1 option remaining
Tim Locastro was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 13th round of the 2013 draft. Hailing from Auburn in upstate New York he went to Ithaca College, where according to his Wiki Page he set records for Runs and Stolen bases.
After two years in the Blue Jays organization, he was traded to the Dodgers in 2015. LA traded him to the Yankees in 2018, who then traded him to the Diamondbacks in January of 2019. The bulk of his playing time in the minor leagues came at second base and shortstop, although he accumulated over 900 innings in Centerfield too. Since arriving in the majors he has played exclusively outfield.
No matter where he has played, at whatever level, he has done two things exceptionally well: Get on base, and advance around the bases very quickly once he got there. Throughout his minor league career he hit for good average and had a knack for getting hit by pitch, getting plunked between 25-32 times each of his full minor league seasons. This resulted in a .377 OBP in the minor leagues.
In his first season with the Diamondbacks in 2019 he hit just .250, but thanks to getting hit by pitch 22 times in only 250 PA he registered a .357 OBP and stole 17 bases without getting caught. Somewhat famously, he was featured in a video by Baseball Bits which is not only essential viewing, but damn fun.
Locastro played sparingly in 2020, getting just 16 starts in 60 games, while appearing in 17 more as a substitute, including 8 times as a defensive replacement or pinch runner where he did not even get an at bat. In all he garnered just 82 PA, but made the most of them by posting an impressive .290/.395/.464 triple slash. It’s notable that he was far less dependent on getting Hit By Pitch, getting plunked just 4 times. Rather he was hitting his way on base, and increased his walk rate from 6% in 2019 to 10% in 2020. While getting hit by pitch is indeed a skill, it’s a tough way to make a living. So seeing Tim’s hitting improve was a really good sign. He sported a .340 BABIP, and has a .316 career BABIP. This is certainly sustainable, as very fast runners often have high BABIP due to their ability to beat out infield hits.
Tim’s plate discipline showed incremental improvement in 2020 as well. His “OSwing” or pitches swung at outside the zone dropped from 36% to 32%. At the same time his contact rate at those pitches increased from 71% to 82%. Meanwhile his percent of pitches swung at IN the zone increased, and overall his swinging strike percentage dropped from 9% to 6%. While this all happened in a small sample size, the fact is he was picking better pitches to swing at and making more contact when he swung.
This all resulted in better contact, higher hard hit rate, and a massive improvement in his Expected wOBA on Contact, (xWOBACON) from .297 to .341. It’s hard to say if these improvements are sustainable or will hold up over a full season or with increased playing. But I’d like to make the case that it would.
1.) As mentioned, TLO has shown the ABILITY to get on base at every level he has played at. The fact that he showed better hitting ability and less dependency on the HBP is a feature, not a bug.
2.) He is the quintessential grinder and managed to stay ready to play despite the Covid-19 season that was, and despite his team prioritizing playing time for Starling Marte and later Daulton Varsho. Imagine how much further he could improve with more in game reps ?
3.) Speed does not slump. For the second year in a row he posted the fastest sprint speed in MLB . As an aside, Locastro’s 26 career steals are the most by a player never to have been caught stealing, (since CS have been recorded consistently in the mid 1930’s). Report Link
The team still does not seem committed to giving Locastro a shot at an every day role. This is a mistake. Tim has hit right handed pitching in MLB better than against left hand pitching. While reverse splits are not something you want to over emphasize, and his minor league record shows more normal L/R splits, in his case this means he is at least capable of holding his own vs. RHP and holding down an every day job, as he’s shown he can hit righties at every level.
MLB Career Splits vs. L/R
Giving T LO a shot at every day play in the first 3 months of 2021 allows them to keep Ketel Marte at second base. It also balances their outfield, as his speed makes the aging David Peralta and Kole Calhoun’s range limitations more manageable.
More importantly, the Diamondbacks are going to need to punch above their collective weight in 2021 to have any shot a getting into playoff contention. What better way to do that than have a scrappy, super fast guy who can get on base leading off every night ? Analytics should be about finding value where other teams are not finding it as readily, or finding value where it’s undervalued. In today’s game, speed and stolen bases are undervalued. At least when it’s this extreme. His 1.4 WAR in 332 PA for 2019-2020 combined works out to 3 WAR for a full season. Having Tim Locastro atop the lineup every day would give the team an exciting and entertaining dimension that not many teams have: A player capable of putting up an OBP above .350 and stealing 50+ bases with a very high success rate, which is of course critical to the overall concept.
Would you like to see more of these types of highlights in 2021 ?
What say ye ?
What Role Should Tim Locastro have in 2021 ?
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