POSITION: Left-handed starting pitcher
BORN ON: November 20, 1987
AGE: 20 years old
BORN IN: North Conway, New Hampshire
LIVES IN: Center Conway, New Hampshire
WEIGHT: 185 pounds
SCHOOL: A. Crosby Kennett High School
ACQUIRED: Selected by the Braves in the second round (51st overall) of the 2006 draft
SIGNED BY: Lonnie Goldberg
STATISTICSClick here for Locke's 2007 stats
SCOUTING REPORTThe Braves believed Jeff Locke would have an outstanding season in Danville and jump ahead of some of the other young prospects, and he did just that with a 7-1 record and a 2.66 ERA (third in the Appalachian League) in 13 games (11 starts). Locke's control was outstanding, with only eight walks in 61 innings, and he struck out 74 batters (second in the league).
Locke really had only one bad outing the entire season, when he gave up five earned runs in his second start of the season in late June. But while five runs were scored off him in that game in 5.1 innings, Locke still struck out eight batters. So the southpaw was pretty much in control the entire season, walking more than one batter in a game only one time (when he walked two against Elizabethton on July 16th).
There are some in the Braves' organization that believe the only thing that separates Locke and Cole Rohrbough (considered the top lefty prospect) is age. Locke is still so very young at 20 years old. But stuff-wise, the two are very close. In fact, Rohrbough actually helped Locke this past season by teaching him his outstanding curveball.
Locke developed that curveball, plus he had more confidence in using his changeup. The change is probably his third best pitch. Locke enjoys throwing it and has command of it. The fastball is usually at 91-93 but he's topped out at 96 mph. He's a true power lefty, even more than Rohrbough or Steve Evarts or Chad Rodgers.
The Braves helped smooth out Locke's delivery a bit. He would occasionally lock up his front knee trying to put forth max effort, but the Braves wanted that knee to be loose. They have kept after Locke to be aware of where he needs to be after the ball is put in play, so he'll get plenty of pitchers' fielding practice this spring. Locke's pickoff move has gotten much better.
Locke still has a lot of baseball left, but the Braves feel they may have a number two or number three starter if he continues his development. Since Locke is a hard-throwing lefty, it is hard to find a good comparison since most lefties are soft-tossers. Comparing Locke to Scott Kazmir may be a stretch, but Locke does have that type of velocity and command.
2008 OUTLOOKLocke could be the Opening Night starter for the Rome Braves this April. He'll get a full season in the South Atlantic League at the age of 20, so he'll be one of the youngest starters in the league. The Braves are anxious to see how Locke will do in a full season team. It'll be quite a challenge for Locke, who as a kid from the Northeast will pitch more this coming season than he's ever pitched before. With his stuff and makeup, the Braves believe there will be positive results.
ADDITIONAL STORY LINKSJeff Locke's 2007 Player Profile
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.