No. 11 prospect Locklear shows refined approach in Fall League

October 22nd, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- 's defining strength has always been his power. The Mariners’ No. 11 prospect did nothing but mash his way onto the professional radar at Virginia Commonwealth, where he tied a program record with 37 homers across three seasons before becoming the school’s highest Draft selection in 18 years in 2022.

But through his first two years of pro ball -- and through 12 games in the Arizona Fall League -- Locklear has shown that there’s more to his offensive profile than just power.

Locklear reached base in three of his four trips to the plate on Saturday night in Peoria’s 5-2 win over Surprise, going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI knocks and a walk. The former second-round pick has hit safely in each of his past four games, while his latest showing marked his fourth multihit effort of the fall.

“I’m really comfortable,” Locklear said. “Especially with this group of guys we have. It’s really hard to be uptight in this clubhouse that we have. Everybody is themself, nobody is really selfish or anything. You can kind of let loose and it obviously translates to the field. We’re able to let go and kind of let our talent show.”

Neither of Locklear’s two hits -- a first-inning single and third-inning double -- were hit particularly hard, but his aggressiveness early in the count rewarded him in both at-bats. Locklear punched a single on the first pitch he saw in the opening inning into center field, plating Jacob Hurtubise for the game’s first run before lining a double to left and scoring Kyle Manzardo (CLE No. 2/MLB No. 58) in the third.

That approach has often led to Locklear expanding the zone and over-hitting early in counts, which at times equates to weaker contact. But the 22-year-old has stayed true to his attacking mentality at the plate, which has proved fruitful through 116 career appearances to this point.

“Early in the game, I try to be on time for [an] early fastball, just because game flow hasn’t been there yet,” Locklear said of his approach this fall. “We really haven’t seen what the [pitcher] is throwing other than the scouting report we get. Just trying to get myself in good counts, swing at good pitches and put good contact on it.”

While a broken right hand suffered on a hit by pitch on June 1 shelved Locklear for two months amid a breakout campaign with High-A Everett in which he was hitting .311/.419/.572 with 11 homers through his first 48 games, he still finished strong with a .843 OPS for the remainder of the season upon his return on Aug. 5.

Making up for lost time in the Fall League, Locklear is slashing .277/.397/.489 across 58 plate appearances with a pair of homers and four doubles. He’s honed in on capitalizing in crucial run-producing situations as well -- one of his two RBIs on Saturday came with two outs.

“How good these [pitchers] are here, you’re maybe only going to see one, maybe two pitches per at-bat,” Locklear said. “So you got to be kind of aggressive when your pitch is there and put a good swing on it.”

And while raw power is still certainly Locklear’s most intriguing quality, his aim is to round out his overall offensive game to make himself a more dependable hitter, using his time in the Fall League to work toward that goal.

So far, he’s used his time wisely.

“I just try to be as complete of a hitter as I can be,” Locklear said. “Driving the ball the other way, kind of sacrificing a little power for a little more contact in a two-strike count. Just letting the power kind of take over for itself when the pitch is there and the swing is on time.”