The Tigers lost Locke St. John in the Rule 5 Draft a few years ago and watched him make his big league debut for the Texas Rangers in 2019. The Tigers have now brought him back as they build depth ahead of the 2021 Minor League season.
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While the Major League portion of the Tigers’ offseason dealings remains relatively slow, the team made a handful of Minor League signings. Among them was St. John, who returns to the organization after the Tigers drafted him in the 32nd round of the 2014 Draft.
Also signed to Minor League deals were right-handers Isrrael De La Cruz, A.J. Ladwig, Henry Martinez and Zac Shepherd. All but Martinez have been in the Tigers’ system. None of the announced deals include an invite to Major League camp.
The Tigers lost St. John in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft in 2017 after an encouraging half-season in the bullpen at Class A West Michigan. Two years later, the lefty made it to Texas, where he allowed four runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings in seven appearances. The 27-year-old did not appear for the Rangers in 2020.
The 28-year-old Ladwig was an 11th-round Draft pick out of Wichita State in 2014 who climbed the Tigers’ system. However, the 6-foot-5 right-hander hasn’t pitched since 2018, when he posted a 10-6 record and 4.78 ERA between Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie.
Shepherd, 25, joined the Tigers’ system out of his native Australia as a corner infielder, but he converted to a pitcher a couple of years ago with an intriguing power arsenal. He has made one appearance this winter in the Australian League.
Likewise, the 23-year-old De La Cruz converted to pitching in 2019 at the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League after five years in the system as a position player. He allowed five runs on five hits over 13 2/3 innings in ’19, walking five and striking out 14.
Martinez, 26, spent his entire Minor League career in Cleveland’s farm system, topping out at Triple-A Columbus in 2019. He owns a 14-11 record, 3.71 ERA and 35 saves in 189 appearances over six Minor League seasons. Martinez made 10 appearances this winter in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, allowing five runs on 14 hits over 10 innings while walking four and striking out seven.