Although Noah Syndergaard says his hamstring injury is fairly minor, he will have to miss at least one start while on the IL. In his place Thursday, 25-year-old Walker Lockett is expected to make his first start as a Met.
The Mets acquired Lockett this past offseason from Cleveland in the Kevin Plawecki trade. Lockett had a cup of coffee in the big leagues last year for the Padres, which didn't go well in a small sample size (four games, 9.60 ERA).
Lockett's minor league profile shows he can help the Mets by pitching in a different way than most of the other pitchers on the team do. Lockett has a 53.7 percent ground ball rate for his minor league career, which is higher than any pitcher on the Mets right now. This extreme ground ball approach means that Lockett doesn't give up too many home runs, which would be a welcome change for the Mets' staff if he can keep it up at the big-league level.
Usually when a pitcher is known for grounders and limiting home runs, he doesn't have great strikeout stuff. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case for Lockett. He's never had a strikeout rate over 8.00 K/9 over a full minor league season, but he has also kept his walks down, which counterbalances the lack of punchouts a bit.
At 6'5" and 225 pounds, Lockett's fastball only has average velocity but lots of natural sink, while his breaking pitches seem to lack the bite necessary to become a front-line starter. His numbers declined last year, but some seem to think that pitching in a hitter-friendly environment contributed to the inflation in his numbers.
Mets assistant GM Adam Guttridge told Baseball America that Lockett "is definitely a guy for whom looking beyond ERA is helpful. He's definitely a guy for whom the sum of the parts is somebody we feel can be a competent major league pitcher."
"Sometimes guys like this can fly under the radar," Guttridge added.
Once upon a time, Lockett was a fourth-round draft pick by the Padres. Although he ran into some injury trouble along the way, scouting reports on Lockett before his trade were still positive.
He's not any kind of future ace, but there's reason to believe he could at least be a serviceable spot starter, with the potential for more. He'll look to get that going Thursday night against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.