(Photo Credit: Jeremy Davis)
For fans of the Dodgers who follow the farm system relatively closely, infielder Tim Locastro‘s name probably first appeared on the prospect radar when he destroyed the Lancaster JetHawks’ pitching staff last May, accomplishing the rare feat of hitting for the cycle in Rancho‘s 12-1 blowout victory. About six months prior to that, however, he was a lower-level prospect in the Blue Jays organization, ultimately being acquired by Los Angeles along with pitcher Chase De Jong in exchange for three international slots in July of 2015.
Recently during his winter break, Locastro was kind enough to sit down and tell us a bit about himself and some of his experiences in the minors. Straight away, we asked him what his initial feelings were like upon hearing the news of being traded to the Dodgers.
“I was completely shocked and confused. I had no idea in any regards that I was going to be traded. It came out of nowhere,” Locastro explained. “It was the week of July 4th and a bunch of my family were coming out to visit me in Lake County, which is right outside of Cleveland. I remember calling my dad and saying, ‘You guys might want to turn around, I just got traded to the Dodgers and I’m leaving for Rancho Cucamonga right now.’ I’m pretty sure they were all even more shocked and surprised than I was.”
Fortunately for Locastro, for the sake of familiarity, he was shipped out with De Jong, with whom he became friends several years prior on the Blue Jays’ farm. Coincidentally, TBPC conducted an in-depth interview with De Jong last spring.
“Chase and I have been friends since we played rookie ball together in the Appalachian League in 2013, and later we played together for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2015,” Locastro said. “After he pitched the game that clinched a first-half playoff berth for us, he was called up to High A in Dunedin, so we weren’t together during the time of the trade.”
A 2010 graduate of Auburn High in New York, Locastro was originally selected in the 13th round of the 2013 draft by the Blue Jays. The Ithaca College product spent the 2013 summer with the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League and was an Organizational All-Star and a Mid-Season All-Star in 2014 for the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League.
Before his trade to the Dodgers, he began the 2015 season with Lansing, registering a .310 batting average with 10 doubles, five home runs, 25 RBIs and 48 runs over 70 games in the Midwest League.
Last season in 131 combined games for High-A Rancho and Double-A Tulsa, the 24-year-old slashed an impressive .285/.341/.389 in 587 plate appearances.
Broadcaster of the Lugnuts, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, had this to say about Locastro late last spring, which conceivably reminds fans of a certain player who wore No. 26 for the Dodgers over the past two seasons:
“Tim Locastro’s mission on a baseball field is simple: He is willing to do whatever it takes to beat you. On defense, he will lay out for grounders and leap for humpback liners, robbing hits with aplomb. On the basepaths, he perpetually looks for the opening that will allow him to take the base in front of him, particularly by outright thievery. At the plate, he is hit by a remarkable amount of pitches, refuses to strike out, and enjoys yanking liners to left and jabbing base hits to right.”
As for his offensive approach at the dish, Locastro confirmed that getting on base is indeed his highest priority.
“Every time I’m in the batters box, my approach is to get on base and score a run, no matter how I do it or what it takes — that’s my goal,” Locastro said.
“In the past, I’ve been at the top of the lineup or a 9-hole hitter — spots you have to get on base for the power guys in the middle of the batting order,” he added. “Depending on the pitcher’s scouting reports and video, there could be a few adjustments here and there, but like I said, the main philosophy that I always go back to is get on base and score for my team.”
Defensively, Locastro can often be seen flashing exhibitions of wizardry with his glove, but he confessed that it hasn’t always been easy for him, especially transitioning between shortstop and second base early on.
“I played shortstop my whole life up until I was drafted by the Blue Jays, which was when I was moved to playing second base primarily. When I was traded to the Dodgers last year, I went back to playing mostly shortstop,” he said.
“The most difficult transition for me was the different angles from second base compared to shortstop. The throwing and the way you field ground balls is very different — it’s basically backwards, especially with double plays,” Locastro explained. “This year, I played a little center field and first base which was new to me, however, being more versatile is very important. That’s why I’d say my best position is whatever position the team and manager need me on that given day to help the team win. Wherever they need me, I’ll play.”
In terms of his career goals with the Dodgers, Locastro said he hopes to climb the organizational ladder relatively quickly, eventually getting a call to contribute to the big league squad down the road.
“Every year since I started, I’ve set a goal to move up one level by the end of the season. Which would mean after ending in Double-A last year, this year would be to finish in Triple-A,” he said. “In the same breath, though, every player’s goal at the beginning of the year is to make it to the big leagues and contribute to their team winning the World Series. If that isn’t your ultimate goal, then why are you even playing?”
Looking forward to his 2017 campaign, if his determination, grit and perseverance have anything to do with it, Locastro will be wearing an Oklahoma City uniform in no time flat.