Lucchesi finishes first professional season
Former Southeast Missouri State left-handed starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi continued to build off of his successful college career in the minor leagues this season.
Lucchesi was drafted 114th overall in the fourth round of the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft by the San Diego Padres.
He became the highest draft pick in Southeast history.
He originally was assigned to the short-season Class-A Tri City Dust Devils, where he spent almost the entire season before joining the full-season Class-A Fort Worth TinCaps for their final game.
Lucchesi's first season in the minors ended with 56 strikeouts while allowing three walks with an ERA of 1.29 over 42 innings.
"I felt good about my first season, my results came out well, still striking out people," Lucchesi said. "In the beginning, I was a reliever, just like I was [at Southeast] ... I just got locked in and then they moved me to starter where I'm more comfortable and I just started going."
The organization's plan was to start Lucchesi out as a reliever to help cut down on his innings pitched.
He ended up throwing a total of 153 innings in 2016 between Southeast and the minor leagues, the most he's ever thrown in a calendar year.
Those innings can sometimes overwhelm a young pitcher, something Lucchesi knew and was prepared for.
"I take what I do seriously. When I was in college I wanted this to be my job," Lucchesi said. "I wanted to make my dream come true, which I did. I feel like you gotta find something that works out for you, a good routine and a lot of repetitions."
Lucchesi's routine at Southeast was very important to him, something his former catcher Scott Mitchell said separated him from other talented pitchers.
"I don't know how much it has changed since he went into the Padres organization, but if you watched the way he'd work out, Monday through Friday, it was like he did the exact same things every day, and it was all in preparation for his start," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said on Thursdays before his starts, Lucchesi would go through an entire game dry just focusing on his mechanics, so during the games he wouldn't have to think about arm slots or the positioning of his feet, he could just focus on hitting his spots.
"Everything he does has a purpose to it, it's like a science," Mitchell said. "He's just efficient with his time and he knows his body."
Mitchell has seen Lucchesi's schedule possibly more than anyone else.
Not only were the two battery mates at Southeast, but they also played at junior college Chabot together in Hayward, California, in 2013.
"I think the biggest difference to me between the first time I caught Joey and last year was the game slowed down for him," Mitchell said. "The talent was always there, he threw hard, was a big guy, but his own maturity was a big thing."
Now a fan rather than a teammate, Mitchell said he expected to see the success Lucchesi has had at the professional level.
"He's picked up right where he left off with SEMO," Mitchell said. "It didn't surprise me at all, I was pretty stoked when I followed the numbers over the summer."
Lucchesi's next step began on Monday, when he went to Arizona to join an instructional league with several prospects and newly-drafted players.