The number of talented pitchers in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system make them the envy of most teams. They have great starting and relieving depth, and if even a small percentage of these prospects pan out the D-Backs will be flush with pitching for years to come. Will Locante is in that mix, and the sky is the limit as he pitches in his first professional season.
Locante, a left-hander, was drafted by the D-Backs in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He attended Briarcrest Christian School in Tennessee, earning All-Region and All-State honors as both a junior and senior. His senior season was his best, as he compiled an 8-2 record, with a 1.01 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 65.1 innings, which earned him a spot on the University of Tennessee’ baseball team.
While at Tennessee, Locante was made a reliever and struggled in that role. As a freshman and sophomore, he totaled a 3-1 record with 31 strikeouts in 21 innings, but also allowed 22 hits and a combined 6.43 ERA. He ultimately decided to transfer and ended up with Cumberland University in the NAIA.
After transferring, Locante immediately put the polish back on his dulled prospect star during his junior year with Bulldogs. He returned to starting, earning Honorable Mention All-America by the NAIA and a place on the All-TransSouth First Team. He appeared in 14 games (13 starts), going 8-2 with a 2.11 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 81 innings; more than enough to earn his draft spot by Arizona.
It remains to be seen if Locante will be groomed as a starter or reliever but he has the ability to do both. He has pitched exclusively as a reliever so far this year in the low minors with excellent results. You can check out his statistics here.
This past off-season Locante interviewed with me and provide some insight on how he has gotten to where he is today in his baseball career. You can also give him a follow on Twitter and monitor his progress throughout the remainder of the season.
Will Locante Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player growing up?: My favorite player growing up was Satchel Paige. I admired how he carried himself on the field. Obviously, I only saw his highlights and stats, but heard many stories of outstanding confidence and ability.
How did your experience at Cumberland University prepare you for life as a professional baseball player?: After I transferred from the University of Tennessee to Cumberland, I shortly realized it was the best move I could have made. Coach Woody Hunt and my pitching coach Kevin Hite helped me tremendously. They taught me the art of self reliance and the importance of doing things on my own. They really gave me a glimpse into how I need to carry myself, mound presence, and what my thought process should be like.
Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: The draft day was the most rewarding and most stressful day of my family’s life. All day we received calls from teams claiming I was going to be their next pick. This happened for 11 rounds. The Diamondbacks drafted me in the 11th and it was one of the best moments of my life. It was like a weight had been lifted and a lifelong dream was accomplished.
Based on your own experience, can you give some insight on the intensity (or not) of contract negotiations between drafted player and team?: I really don’t want to get too deep into it. However, I will tell you that things do definitely get intense. Fortunately, my advisor handled the majority of the negotiations. I am grateful to him and the Diamondbacks for reaching an agreement.
What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?: Right now I am primarily a two-seam and slider type of pitcher. My best pitch is probably my slider, but I do love throwing my two-seam/sinker. The pitch I would really like to see develop and improved would be my changeup. The off season has been very productive and my changeup has definitely improved. But I am never satisfied and always strive to improve and get better in every aspect of my game.
What were your emotions like as you headed into your first spring training and professional season?: As I head into my first spring training, I am really excited and eager to learn. What I am most excited for is hopefully getting to talk to major leaguers and ask them about approach and other bits of advice. Who better to learn from than major league pitchers and the experience from the great coordinators in our system?
After you signed, what was something that you did for yourself or family to celebrate?: After I signed there wasn’t too much time to celebrate. I signed with about 30 minutes left in the deadline and I was then on a plane early the next day to head out to Arizona. However, after the draft, my family took me out to a nice dinner in Nashville and we had a great time. Also, I bought myself an iPad for the long bus trips I have ahead of me.
What are you specific goals for 2012?: My goals are:
1. To make it to a full season team out of spring training.
2. Have an ERA of 2.5 or less and 3:1 k to bb ratio.
3. Further develop my changeup.
4. I want to enjoy the experience of playing professional baseball.