Samuel done as a Cardinal after six years

Reliever Francisco Samuel, once considered a future closer candidate, has been released by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The St. Louis Cardinals no longer have reliever Francisco Samuel in their minor league system. The 25-year-old Dominican right-hander has been released. First signed in 2006, Samuel reached Triple-A but could never translate his velocity into consistent control. He also had trouble staying healthy.

Samuel's career peak occurred in 2009, when he spent the entire season with Double-A Springfield. He was coming off a 28 save season with Palm Beach in 2008. With Springfield, he ranked second both in the Texas League and across the entire Cardinals organization with 22 saves. Samuel fanned over 11 per nine innings that year.

He participated in the Futures Game at Busch Stadium and was named a Texas League All-Star. In November, he was added to St. Louis' 40-man roster.

Even that apparent standout year had its warts. Late in the season, the wheels fell off as Samuel was removed from the closer's job and posted an ERA of 7.88 in his final 20 appearances. Control was the challenge as he walked 18 in those final 20 games covering only 16 innings.

He rebounded somewhat in 2010, making 38 appearances spanning three levels: Palm Beach (3 games), Springfield (22) and Memphis (13). The promise continued to show as he averaged over a strikeout per inning with 43 in 37 total innings.

Samuel did fine when asked to handle the ninth inning, nailing down seven of eight save opportunities, including six at Springfield. He was unscored upon in 17 of his 22 scoreless appearances in Double-A, including four straight scoreless saves before his promotion to Triple-A. He held opposing batters to a .190 average in Memphis and did not allow a home run in 13 appearances.

2011 was not kind to Samuel. In September, ironically to make 40-man roster room for a now more promising right-hander, Eduardo Sanchez, Samuel was designated for assignment. He cleared waivers and was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft in December and again, was not taken by any of the other 29 organizations.

The spring had begun poorly as Samuel suffered a lat strain while still in major league camp and was never right. He had a setback in extended spring training and just after being activated all the way down in Palm Beach in late June, he went back on the DL.

On July 10, Samuel was activated but dropped down all the way to the Gulf Coast League to rehab, then moved up to Palm Beach and Springfield within the next ten days. He struggled in Springfield only to be put back on the DL on August 15, where he remained for the rest of the season until one final outing on September 3.

That last outing continued a familiar Samuel pattern. Throwing in the upper 90's isn't as valuable if one can't control his pitches. In that final game, he walked two and gave up two runs without allowing a hit in 1/3 of an inning. Overall in 2011, Samuel fanned 17 in 14 innings but issued 16 free passes. His ERA across the three levels was a whopping 12.21.

Samuel was ranked on The Cardinal Nation Top Prospect List in each of the previous three winters, but dropped each year before falling off the 2012 list. He had a peak of 19 in 2009, then 22 in 2010 to 35 in 2011. He finished his Cardinals career with a 5.66 ERA and 204 walks to go along with 270 strikeouts in 213 innings.

Once considered a future closer candidate in St. Louis, Samuel is now out of work.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league content during the season at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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