Selected 2010 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Dustin Mattison (33): Samuel rocketed up the Cardinals' prospect charts faster than one of his blazing fastballs in 2008. Now, the luster has come off and his flaws are showing. That number one flaw is his control.
Blessed with a fastball that reaches the upper nineties and a solid slider, Samuel looked the role of a future big league closer. Now, after walking 81 in 84 innings the past two seasons, I am not certain he will ever fulfill his vast potential. Though the walks were many, the strikeouts were greater. During the same span, the right-hander fanned a whopping 102.
So, it is very simple when looking at Samuel's future. If he learns to harness his explosive repertoire, he will have a role in the Cardinals' bullpen for years to come. If he can't throw strikes, he will go down in the annals of big-armed prospects that never made it due to lack of control.
Message board community (35): When one thinks of Cardinals pitchers with exceptional stuff but who often can't find the plate, what name comes to mind? I would guess that name for most is Rick Ankiel (though he didn't have the wildness problems early in his career.)
The current Cardinals system player who might best fit that description is Francisco Samuel. Possessing a live fastball and a devastating slider, Samuel has struck out nearly 25% of the batters he's faced in his minor league career. The problem is that he has walked about 17% of those faced. While not an excessive ground ball pitcher, Samuel has survived with those numbers due to his ability to keep the ball in the park and not give up home runs.
Normally a pitcher with the stats of Samuel would not make this list. Not only are his stats poor, the recent trend has been downward. However, few pitchers possess the potential of Samuel - if he rights the ship. Samuel's AA pitching coach, Dennis Martinez believes Samuel is on the right track and it was his endorsement that earned Samuel a late season promotion to AAA Memphis. Samuel continued to struggle there though as well. My guess is that by the end of next season we will be talking about how Samuel made his debut as a major leaguer or we won't be talking about him at all. - CariocaCardinal
Brian Walton (36): More than any prospect in the rankings to date, we all agree about where Samuel should reside in the prospect rankings. This is his second consecutive year he took a drop, from number 19 two years ago to 22 to now 35.
To many, Samuel is old news, having been passed up in the hot reliever race by Eduardo Sanchez and Adam Reifer. In addition, 2010 second-rounder Jordan Swagerty is being ultimately projected as a reliever and could move up fast.
Samuel's relative youth is no longer a differentiator in his favor as he will turn 24 years of age before the month is out. Sanchez is more than two years younger yet seems far closer to the majors because he can more consistently throw strikes.
It is far too early to give up on Samuel, however. Just one year ago, he was among eight Cardinals farmhands added to the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft and as such, one inhibitor to his ascension to the majors was removed. Three of the eight have since been dropped from the 40-man, but Samuel remains. With improvement, along with need in St. Louis, Samuel could make his MLB debut in 2011, but even if so, success is far from assured.
Our 2011 top 40 countdown continues: To see our entire list of 40 Cardinals prospects, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.
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