TCN 2014 Cards Prospect #36: Sam Tuivailala

Though relatively inexperienced, the hard-throwing right hander has considerable runway ahead.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2013 and career stats)

2013 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHR 10/19/1992 6-3 195 R R 2010 3rd

School: Aragon High School, San Mateo, Cal.

Selected 2013 stats

Peo 0 3 5.35 2.41 28 0 1 35.1 31 22 0 20 50 1.57 0.233 0.365

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (27): Sam Tuivailala made a big jump in the community rankings from being unranked last year to the 27th prospect this year.

One of two converted positional players from the 2009 draft, Tuivailala was in his first full season as a professional on the mound. He appeared in a career best 28 games (35 1/3 IP), averaging nearly 13 strikeouts per nine innings with 45 total on the season. Despite the 5.31 ERA, Tuivaiala pitched a lot better than it indicates as he had a 2.41 FIP during a season in which he took big steps.

Though he is still quite raw as a pitcher, Tuivailala has as good as an arm as anyone in the Cardinals farm system. Reports say he can consistently sit in the upper 90s while mixing in a good breaking pitch. Physically, he has a strong durable body standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 195 pounds, with what is said to be clean mechanics as the ball explodes out of his hand.

One would think a pitcher with his natural gifts, including size, clean athletic delivery, and live stuff could be a starter full time. Time will tell to give us that answer as he is a development project worth waiting for. Tuivailala is another one of those high-risk, high upside arms you have to like as a prospect watcher.

The Florida sun should be shining on Tuivailala for much of the upcoming season. 2014 will be a big year for him to perhaps put some "polish" on his status. - DTFlush234

Brian Walton (41): When evaluating prospects, once you get past the top tier of 12-15 players, the ones I think have the best possibility of rising to the top have one or more standout tools. Obviously, there remains doubt as to whether Tuivailala will achieve his ceiling, especially with just 48 1/3 professional innings under his belt, but having the right raw materials surely helps.

Tuivailala the shortstop, then third baseman, did not have what it takes. On the other hand, Sam the pitcher is worthy of special notice among Cardinals prospects. His 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings, tied for third-best in the system, helps draw notice.

One year ago, I had Tuivailala at number 44 on my list. Though he moved up only three spots this year, it is more a reflection of stiff competition than any major concern about him. Still, his 5.1 walks per nine innings, eighth-highest among Cardinals relievers, has to be improved. He remains green enough as a pitcher that he was again working in instructional league camp this fall.

Tuivailala should not be thought of as being behind schedule, though. After all, he was younger at Johnson City in 2012 than was another then-relatively inexperienced, but hard-throwing hurler, Trevor Rosenthal, in 2010, when he was pitching at the same level. Both players then spent their next entire season in the Midwest League.

With his big arm, Tuivailala should progress relatively quickly. Even if so, it is unrealistic to expect him to hop over the Florida State League and accelerate to Double-A to start 2014 as did Rosenthal in 2012.

Further, it is still far too early to know if Tui can eventually establish himself as a dominant major league closer - but his arm has the potential. At this point, that is what one should be concerned about.

Our 2014 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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