Peoria, Ariz. —After being passed over in the 2015 draft, all 40 rounds of the 2015 draft, Joey Lucchesi made quite a few evaluators look bad.
Lucchesi, 23, came back for his senior year at Southeast Missouri State University and led the NCAA in strikeouts with 149 strikeouts in 111 innings for a 2.19 ERA. After being selected in the fourth round by the Padres, the big lefty from northern California was even better at short-season Tri-Cities, despite being limited to three innings per outing.
With the Dust Devils, he threw 40 innings and struck out 53 against only two walks and gave up only six earned runs for a 1.35 ERA. He had a brief cameo in Fort Wayne before ending a very successful year.
The six-foot-five lefty throws in the low-90s with nearly everything around the knees with some rather unique movement.
“He has some crazy deception,” said Ben Fritz, his manager at Tri-City last year. “You can take his delivery and you will see some funkiness where you don’t see a lot of comfortable swings on both sides of the plate. His fastball gets on you and the hitters tend to be out front on the breaking ball.”
“He is a guy that there doesn’t matter if there are runners on base or not, he is the same dude; give me the ball. You have to like that.”
We caught up with him in Spring Training to talk about last season and his plans for this year.
MadfFriars: We talked about this a little bit last year in Tri-City. You didn’t get drafted after your Junior year and then came back and had a really successful year by anyone’s standards.
That had to be a bit of an 'I told you so' moment.
Joey Lucchesi: [laughs] After my first pro season I felt good, dominant and all of that. But as nice as it is to have people say and write a lot of good things about me I also realized that I need to keep working and stay humble.
It’s a great first step, but there are a lot of places I still want to go.
You threw a lot of innings in college and I thought when I spoke with you in August you would be telling me are dragging after a long year, but it was the opposite. What kept you going so strong?
It seemed like you had your own idea of what you needed to do to get ready to pitch.
Joey Lucchesi: Last year I did throw a lot of innings and really trained hard through the fall to prepare my body for that season. I did the same as what I did last season for this year.
I do a lot of dry work for muscle memory, so I don’t have to worry about where my arm is or what my feet are doing. I try to get my rest, work out and all of that - but the muscle memory is what really helps me.
One of the more impressive things that I saw with you is how much you throw off the timing of hitters with a variety of pauses, but it doesn’t seem to affect you. How do you do that?
Joey Lucchesi: A lot of repetitions. I know my windup is pretty funky.
It’s fun to watch.
Joey Lucchesi: [laughs]I have a lot of tics, but they work for me and keeps me in sync with my body. It helps me time out my arm; it just feels good.
I know you know what you are doing but you also seem to adjust to various batter’s timing mechanisms.
Joey Lucchesi: I do think that plays a role but from what I’ve been told it’s also very hard for batters to see the ball when I release it. So, I do think the pauses help me, but I think deception is just as big.
If I am hitting my spots and have the other stuff going on its plus-plus.
How important are scouting reports to you as compared to what you are seeing from the mound? What helps you prepare the most for a game?
Joey Lucchesi: The day before I try to make sure I’m ready physically; mainly being well hydrated so I can go as long as they need me too. I try to get locked in as mentally as I can the night before and not have any distractions.
I’ve gotten pretty coached up this past year; so I’m looking where the batters place their hands and where they stand in the box. That helps give me an idea of where you want to pitch to them, combined with the pre-game scouting report my catcher and I have gone over.
Is that one of the tougher things on becoming a pro; learning how to process information. Knowing what you can use and what you can’t?
Joey Lucchesi: It depends how you look at it because I love learning new things. I really have a passion for baseball, it’s what I love to do. If someone is bringing me something that might make me get better; then I’m going to try to understand it.
So many people used to sign just before the deadline. How much did getting the experience you had last year help you with your first Spring Training?
Joey Lucchesi: Coming off of last year I felt I did well, which gave me a lot of confidence. When you do well, it makes you want to work harder and I put in a lot of time this off-season to get better.
I still would have worked hard even if I hadn’t had a good season, but having something positive always helps your confidence.
Did you change anything between what you do now as compared to college?
Joey Lucchesi: In college you had people telling you where you had to be and what you had to do. When you become a pro you have to start doing that yourself.
I talked to some of the instructors out here and got their input. I went to Sparta, a training facility by my house, and really tried to make a plan to improve.
One more time, could you review your pitches again?
Joey Lucchesi: I have two different two-seamers that break the opposite way. I have different grips for both. A circle-change and a curve.
What is the biggest thing you wanted to work on this year compared to last?
Joey Lucchesi: My curve ball consistency. My curve ball is good, but I used to be able to put it on a dime. I’ve been working on it and think it's just about there.