Who is the Newest Texas Rangers Pitcher, Locke St. John?

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MARCH 28: Grounds crew members remove a tarp off the pitchers mound prior to the Texas Rangers taking on the Chicago Cubs during Opening Day at Globe Life Park in Arlington on March 28, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MARCH 28: Grounds crew members remove a tarp off the pitchers mound prior to the Texas Rangers taking on the Chicago Cubs during Opening Day at Globe Life Park in Arlington on March 28, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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In a bevy of moves Thursday morning, the Texas Rangers made big changes to their pitching staff including promoting lefty pitcher, Locke St. John.

Who is Locke St. John? Well first off, the latest Texas Rangers pitching prospect looking to make his MLB debut in 2019 is a member of the All-Name Team. The 26-year old also a lefty reliever who has been dominating the upper ranks of the Rangers minor league system and now, he’s on his way to Arlington.

Background

Locke St. John, first name is actually Kenton, was a 32nd round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers back in 2014 out of the University of South Alabama. The Texas Rangers then selected St. John in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft (players eligible if not on the 40-man roster or on the extended Triple-A roster) in 2018.

Prior to being taken by Texas, St. John was a minor-league pitcher that steadily continued to improve year by year. His 2016 and 2017 campaigns, which no doubt helped put him on Texas’ radar, were back-to-back seasons of sub-3.00 ERA, sub-.235 OBA and sub-1.200 WHIP with all of his 2016 appearances coming as starts. In 2018, pre-Rangers organization, St. John looked his best in 29 relief outings with a 2.06 ERA and an opponent batting average of just .203, his best since his Rookie-Ball days.

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His 2018 season once in the Rangers system was a bit more of a struggle. His 11 outings for the Frisco Roughriders saw a bit of a spike in ERA and WHIP along with a dip in his K/9 and K/BB rates.

How’d He Get to Arlington

The 2019 season has been the year of Locke St. John in the Rangers organization. It’s a year where a lot of young pitching prospects have started making names for themselves and St. John is no different. Starting the season with Double-A Frisco, St. John made 22 appearances throwing 29.2 total innings. He was nearly unhittable with the Roughriders, posting a .202 OBA which earned him a promotion to Triple-A Nashville.

He was just 4 appearances into his Triple-A career before this promotion but was exceptional in that small sample size allowing just 2 hits and 1 run in 5 combined innings. With all the turmoil Texas has had in their bullpen of late and the shelling we saw against Joe Palumbo yesterday, the Rangers were prompted to make a bevy of moves regarding their pitching staff.

John Blake, VP of Communications for the club, tweeted out the various moves for Texas Thursday morning. St. John is pretty much directly replacing Drew Smyly who has been fairly abysmal this season. Smyly’s DFA isn’t a shock in the sense that we all knew it was coming eventually but the replacement was unknown. St. John was added to the 40-man roster as a part of this move and will look to follow Pete Fairbanks formula to success as young relievers looking to make effective debuts.

What Can We Expect?

St. John likely won’t get a ton of high leverage work early on in his time in Arlington as is customary with most relief prospects. He does help bolster a bullpen that is looking to find some consistency especially with Jesse Chavez being moved to a rotation spot for the meantime. St. John isn’t a full on lefty specialist, right-handed hitters are hitting just .254 against him in 2019, but he’s a buzzsaw against left-handed batters. Lefties are hitting just .102 against him this year with a .200 OBP and a .454 OPS. He also only has allowed a .190 BAbip against left-handed hitters this season. We likely will see Texas play to his strengths opting to bring him in during situations where he’ll see at least one left-handed hitter.

Regardless of how he’s used, it’s a good sign for the Rangers as an organization to see so many minor-league pitchers taking big strides on the mound this season. St. John joins a list of Pete Fairbanks, Joe Palumbo, Phillips Valdez and Taylor Hearn who look to make their big league debut in Arlington.

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