A common transition you see in professional baseball is teams converting young shortstops into a second baseman. With many youth coaches developing their players with higher ceilings at shortstop due to the demand for skilled players there at higher levels of play, you don’t see as many big names at second coming out of high school and college programs, so teams draft extra shortstops that can be put on the other side of the bag during their minor league development.
This scenario is exactly what happened to Toronto Blue Jays prospect Tim Locastro when he was selected in the 13th round of the 2013 MLB draft out of Ithaca College in New York. The young infielder was excited to begin a professional career after an excellent junior season at Ithaca where he batted .436 and set school records in runs scored with 71 and stolen bases with 40.
“Being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays was very exciting,” stated Locastro. “I was actually upstairs and my Dad was downstairs watching the draft on his computer and he yelled up, yes! I came downstairs and he said you just got drafted by the Blue Jays and then I was just overwhelmed with excitement.”
Despite his excitement, Locastro knew he was going to be switching to second base due to a logjam of prospects developing at shortstop in the Blue Jays system. This change was one that he was uneasy about at first, but is starting to pay dividends now.
“My defense is coming around at second base,” explained Locastro. “At first I was a little skeptical playing at second as I only played there a couple times in summer ball. But now I’m more comfortable over there from playing the position regularly since 2013.”
Obviously there are some similarities between the two positions like covering the bag on stolen base attempts and backing up the other side when fielding ground balls. But there are some direct differences that can make playing second base a challenge.
“The toughest part of the transition from shortstop to second for me was moving to the other side of the field,” said Locastro. “A big difference is handling the double plays. In a 6-4-3 double play you come across the diamond with the play, but with the 4-6-3 double play you have to turn out of the play quickly for the throw back to first. You also have to be aware of players trying to slide into second when you’re preparing to make a throw.”
Transitioning to hitting at the professional level has not been an issue for Locastro so far in his professional journey. Carrying an impressive .283/.367/.384 slash line in his first season in Bluefield before making a jump up to the short season Vancouver Canadians last year where he improved his batting average 30 points to .313, while also raising his OBP 40 points to .407.
Earning another promotion prior to the 2015 season, Locastro is taking on his first full season with the Blue Jays low-A club the Lansing Lugnuts. Currently batting .321 with 10 doubles, a triple, four home runs and 23 RBIs, the 22-year old infielder is turning heads daily with his elite speed and big play ability.
Impressed with what he has seen from Locastro every time he steps into the batter’s box this season, Lansing Lugnuts’ hitting coach Kenny Graham has nothing but praise for the young prospect.
“Tim Locastro is doing well,” stated Graham. “Tim has a lot of speed and has the ability to hit balls hard. He’s a threat anytime he steps into the batter’s box. He’s an exciting player to watch.”
While watching Locastro in the batter’s box you will notice a direct difference than with most professional baseball players. The difference is he doesn’t wear batting gloves. After trying them out briefly in college he decided to do away with them forever.
“My freshman year of college I used batting gloves two or three times after a teammate gave them to me,” explained Locastro. “It didn’t take long to say enough is enough. I like the feel of holding the bat in my hands. This season is my fifth season without using batting gloves and I’m happy with this approach to hitting.”
Despite making a few changes in professional baseball Locastro wouldn’t change anything about his time in the Blue Jays system, as he was familiar with their organization before being drafted. A native of Auburn, New York Locastro spent a lot of time at Falcon Park home of the Auburn Doubledays growing up. Spending a lot of time following the Doubledays between the years of 2001 and 2010 when the club was a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate definitely made Locastro feel right at home in the Jays system.
“I was familiar with the Blue Jays through their former affiliation with the Auburn Doubledays,” stated Locastro. “Dennis Holmberg who is currently the manager of the Bluefield Blue Jays was the manager of Auburn at the time and I used to attend baseball camps there. It was nice witnessing games there first hand and seeing how the Blue Jays organization operated before I was drafted.”