As a high schooler, Sam Tuivailala was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the third round of the 2010 draft. Once a promising shortstop, Tui was later shifted to third base. The rub was not his strong arm, but with a bat that produced a two-year line of .220/.333/.296 in the Gulf Coast League.
The California native was approached as the 2012 short-season was getting underway with the idea of becoming a pitcher. The right-hander readily agreed.
The upper-90's velocity has generated rave reviews, but command of it as well as his curve are arguably at least as important to Tuivailala's success.
With A-Advanced Palm Beach in 2014 after competing last season in the Midwest League, the 21-year-old is still learning. Tuivailala is one of the top strikeout relievers in the Florida State League so far this year, ranking third with a 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched rate (32 K/21 2/3 IP).
However, he has also yielded 10 earned runs for a 4.15 ERA. Tuivailala's WHIP of 1.34 is barely average, though his walks are down from 2013. He has finished a team-best 11 games, yet only one save indicates they have not been in the highest leverage situations. That should come with time, experience and continued progress.
In the following interview, The Cardinal Nation's 36th-ranked prospect entering the season discusses his journey to date and what may be ahead.
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