Second Round – 51st overall pick
Bats: L Throws: L
Turns 19 this November 20th – Born in 1987
Kennett High School in Conway, New Hampshire
Jeff Locke started pitching when he was eight years old, but thankfully, being from New Hampshire, he's a kid that still has a fresh arm. Kids up north are not able to throw as much as the kids from the south, so Locke is very projectable.
HIGH SCHOOL CAREER:
Finished his high school career with a 38-2 record. In his senior season, Locke was 10-0 with a 0.68 ERA. He allowed only 6 earned runs on 20 hits in 61 innings, with 12 walks, and 116 strikeouts. Locke had seven complete games. He also hit .412 with 5 home runs in 68 at bats. When teams wanted him to come to workouts prior to the draft, he refused to leave his high school team. All but two of the 30 major league teams scouted Locke his senior season.
Locke was rated as the 60th best player in the country and the fifth best left-handed pitcher in high school in the country.
Braves' Scouting Director Roy Clark:
Another power lefty. Locke is from New Hampshire, and that was quite a trip. I missed all the moose. We had scouts actually see some moose when they went up to see him, and that's what it said on the signs as your going in, "Beware of the Moose!" He's a guy that we first started tracking last summer down in Jupiter. I've personally seen him five times. He's a …you hate to compare them to big leaguers. You don't want to say Billy Wagner, cause that's tough for anybody. But he's a real aggressive guy – touching 94. He's got a pretty good breaking ball, but he's a bit rawer than the other guys. But he's got a very high ceiling. It was tough to scout him cause it's raining all the time. But I've personally seen him four or five times and feel very comfortable with him.
Braves' National Crosschecker Kurt Kemp:
I think the tremendous upside with Jeff Locke is how live his body and arm are, and you're talking about a young man from the northern third of the country where there's just a lot of upside with those kids because they just don't get a chance to play as much as the kids in Florida. If you compared when Evarts started, he was probably throwing games in January in Florida, and Locke was probably making his first start April 7th – at the earliest. You're talking about kids that are two, three months behind. We think he has tremendous upside for that reason, and as well he comes from an area where the weather is a little bit cooler, where he hasn't played as much baseball. We think as he gets in a baseball environment and gets on a regular throwing program, gets in the warmer weather and gets in a development system, he's going to take off and be an outstanding left-hander one day in the Braves' organization.
Braves' area scout Lonnie Goldberg
He's an excitable, livewire kid with a fresh, big arm. Right now he's going through a tough phase down there because when you're up in that area he was able to get by with his fastball and being able to throw it right down the middle. He was a kid that threw a ton of strikes. He did not have any command problems. He didn't have to face a lot of tough competition up there, so it's not a huge surprise that he's struggled a bit so far. But like we tell them, ‘it's not what you're doing now, but in four or five years. Enjoy the process and take head of the process and you'll be successful.' He's a good kid.
It's tough for kids up there because the competition isn't as good. They're used to just cruising. You try to break it down into segments. You try to picture the kid pitching against good competition. You also see what the aptitude the kid has and what the makeup is. You come to some of the tournaments and some of the showcases that these kids play in. You see them go against good pitching and good hitting, and you see guys have to dial it up.
You've got to give our crosscheckers credit and our Scouting Director because they saw Jeff early at one event in Jupiter. They liked what they saw and pursued him. At that point we tried to follow him as much as possible. The kid has an electric arm and he wanted to go play. He wanted to be a Brave as much as anyone. I think we're going to have a pretty good power arm here in the future.
He's got a changeup and a curveball. He's got a feel for both. I think what he'll end up doing is being a two-pitch power guy – a power arm out of the bullpen. One thing I liked about him is that he was extremely, extremely competitive. He's excitable. He's fresh. He wants to learn. He's excited to learn. He hasn't been involved in some of these situations that some of these other guys have where they've been in these big events and faced a lot of good competition. He's not scared of it. I think that's the one thing stands out – he's got a good arm, but the kid's fearless. I think that's going to help him a lot.
Jeff didn't have a bullpen in high school. He didn't pitch off a bullpen at all. Not only did he not throw one, he didn't have one. He was throwing off flat grounds. It was different. I think this is all overwhelming to him. I know just being around some of the other draft picks, like (Chad) Rodgers, (Steve) Evarts, and Cody (Johnson), you talk about eye-opening…those kids have been around all of that stuff. This kid is just soaking it all in. But he'll be fine.
He was fearless, and he's going to compete. He's not going to give up on you. That's the one thing that we were not worried about. For him, he wants to soak up all of this. He's never really had much pitching coaching or any of that. He's just been from an area where he's had a lot of success and not had to struggle. I think he's going to be a special one. It may take him a little bit of time, but his aptitude for learning is good. He may have some struggles, but when the success hits, it's going to jump. I think that happens a lot with the northern kids.
He hasn't had to do anything but throw fastballs. I think he'd throw his offspeed stuff up there maybe more for show, but the one good thing about him was he didn't walk guys. He was consistent in the zone with his fastball. So now it'll be all about where he puts his fastball and how to do it. He's pretty athletic.
The Braves Show's Bill Shanks
The Braves have gotten the top pitching prospect out of New England before. They did it in 1978 when they drafted Steve Bedrosian out of the University of New Haven in the third round. They did it in 1982 when they selected Joe Johnson from the University of Maine in 1982. And, of course, in 1984 a kid named Tom Glavine was taken in the second round out of Billerica, Massachusetts.
Now in 2006 the Braves once again have the best pitching prospect out of New England in Jeff Locke, who did peak the interest of the beloved Boston Red Sox. The thin lefty has good control, with a sharp curve and an improving change. The fastball is usually in the 88-91 mph range. He broke his catcher's thumb a couple of times in high school. The Braves love Locke's makeup and athleticism.
Click here for an interview with Jeff Locke.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look at the Braves' traditional front office philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves' Radio Network. Email Bill at email@example.com.