Colorado Rockies prospects: Tony Locey’s bulldog mentality paying off

Over the past three seasons, Tony Locey has been traded and flipped between being a starter and reliever. While the locations and assignments may have changed for the 23-year-old right-hander, there is one thing that hasn’t for the Colorado Rockies pitching prospect.

“I have a bulldog mentality,” Locey said recently as the Spokane Indians prepared to wrap up a road series against the Eugene Emeralds. “I want to attack every hitter, every time.”

What Colorado Rockies pitching prospect Tony Locey brings to the mound, both in skills and mentality

Locey says that that same mentality on the mound has been with him since before he signed with the University of Georgia and was selected in the third round of the 2019 MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. It has been the same mentality he brought to the Colorado Rockies when he was traded as part of the deal that sent Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals. It has been the same mentality when he started the 2021 season for Low-A Fresno in the bullpen and then finished out the season as a starter.

“I love to compete in everything I do, whether that’s on or off the field,” Locey said. “It’s about a winning mentality. I’ve been around a lot of great teams. I won two state championships in high school. I grew up winning and that’s what I love to do.”

Locey has been winning since he became a part of the Rockies organization, helping Fresno win the Low-A West’s North Division title with a 74-41 mark. This season, entering play on Wednesday, Spokane had a 32-30 mark, good enough for second in the Northwest League.

That core group that flourished in Fresno (including names such as high-ranking prospects Drew Romo and Zac Veen) has come together in Spokane this season. It’s a group that Locey is glad to be a part of and one that has the same desire to build a winning culture within the Rockies organization.

“This year in spring training, they talked about a winning culture in the minor league system because that’s ultimately how big league teams win,” Locey said. “I think this group is really good. We always know that every guy who gets in the game, we have a chance to win. It’s about building confidence off of last season and carrying it into every game this season.”

While confidence is something that Locey has not lacked in during his time on the mound, getting settled into a routine was a bit of a challenge before this season. The trade to the Rockies sent him to a different spring training location across the country and into a different organization.

“I didn’t know a soul in Arizona,” Locey recalled. “Everything was different, and it took some getting used to for me. It’s not easy for anyone to go from being very comfortable and knowing a lot of people and what was expected to a new environment, but I was quickly welcomed into the mix. I got settled in and started focusing on just getting outs.”

Those outs came via the bullpen for the first 15 outings of the season in Fresno for Locey. It was an adjustment for Locey after transitioning into a starter role at Georgia. While his ERA sat at 3.68 in 22.0 innings of work over 15 games, opponents were hitting .253 as Locey adjusted to what it took to succeed in relief.

“There are guys who do this their whole career and they are comfortable coming out of the bullpen and warming up multiple times maybe,” Locey said. “I would warm up and let it eat out there and then have to get hot again and wonder how many bullets I had left. It’s a different mentality for sure.”

On July 20, Locey would get back into a starting role and has been a starter ever since. This season in Spokane, he has posted a 2.56 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 56.1 innings (10 starts). He has also earned accolades and praise for what he has accomplished on the mound.

“He has a very nice fastball-slider combination and the changeup is coming along nicely too,” Spokane pitching coach Ryan Kibler said. “He has used that as a weapon to left-handed hitters at times and it has really gotten his attention. It’s also made him a little more versatile in getting both right- and left-handed hitters out.

“For him to have a third pitch that he can throw against left-handed hitters in any count has been outstanding.”

That versatility helped Locey throw six no-hit innings against the Hillsboro Hops on June 15, with the effort against Hillsboro landing Locey his second Northwest League Pitcher of the Week award this season.

There is still plenty of work to do for Locey, but the Indians are also seeing plenty of potential in what he can bring every start.

“That mentality that he brings to the mound, that’s a separator for him,” Kibler said. “I like competitive guys and he’s got it. He likes to win, hates to lose, and thinks he’s better than the batter, and that serves him very well.”

Locey said he embraces who he is and what he can do.

“I’m a very high momentum swing kind of guy,” Locey smiled. “On a double play, I’m fist-bumping. When our guys hit a home run, I’m high-fiving and jacked up to get back out there. That’s how you win ball games. As a pitcher, you have to throw up zeroes after your team scores.”

It’s part of the bulldog, winning mentality that keeps pushing Locey on his quest to keep improving and keep moving up inside the Rockies organization.