Palm Beach Cards Reliever of the Year: 2008

Closer Francisco Samuel was the anchor point for an ever-changing Palm Beach Cardinals staff in 2008, co-leading the Florida State League in saves while fanning better than 13.5 batters per nine innings pitched.

Like on any club, the solid season-long play of the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League was due to the actions of several dozen young men. Yet in 2008, the list of contributors was even longer than before as the St. Louis Cardinals' revolving door of player movement may have been spinning harder in the Florida breezes than at any other of the Cardinals affiliates.


Winning 42 and 33 games in each half, respectively, and generating the second-best record in the entire league despite a staff ERA that ranked only eighth of 12 teams is a testament to Palm Beach pitching coach Dennis Martinez and manager Gaylen Pitts as well as the entire Cardinals player development organization.


Not surprisingly, the Cardinals also played in the second-most one-run games in the league, 47, of which they won 27. It is most specifically an endorsement of the Palm Beach relief corps and above all, the man who was the rock of the bullpen staff, the pitcher who was on the mound for final opposing out of a whopping 48 of those contests.


Our Palm Beach Cardinals Reliever of the Year for 2008 is none other than closer Francisco Samuel.


Another measure of the club's dependence on the 21-year-old Dominican Republic native is that only one member of the staff pitched in more than half as many games as did Samuel, who appeared in 54 games overall.


Those 54 appearances tied for third in the FSL and Samuel's 48 game finishes were second-most in the league.


Of course, his results were tremendous, as well.


Samuel's 29 saves tied for the league lead in 2008. Among FSL relievers, the right-hander's 85 strikeouts were second-most. Equally impressive is his rate of 13.58 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. In other words, over half of Samuel's outs were achieved via the punchout.


Another strong indicator is the measly .196 batting average the league's hitters managed collectively against him all season long. When the going got tough, Samuel was even tougher, holding opposing hitters to a .153 average with runners on base.


The stability provided by the San Pedro de Macoris native was crucial to his team. In fact, Samuel is the first-ever reliever to lead the Palm Beach club in strikeouts in a given season.


Like any youngster at his level, that's not to say that Samuel's game can't improve. With a slider that sits in the upper 80's (MPH), Samuel needs to refine its control and that of his impressive mid-90's fastball.


The right-hander's 48 walks, accrued in 56 1/3 innings pitched, are double that of any other FSL reliever in 2008. His ERA was 3.06 and his WHIP, walks and hits per innings pitched, was an inflated 1.54, primarily due to the free passes issued.


Among his 2008 honors were being singled out as our Cardinals Reliever of the Month for August for the entire system. Samuel was also named to the Florida State League Post-Season All-Star Team by league managers, scorers and the media.


Following such a successful campaign, the Cardinals specifically asked Samuel not to pitch in winter ball this off-season despite the fact he was in demand. The righty was selected in the fourth round by the Estrellas Orientales in the Liga Dominicana de Beisbol Professional (LDBP) draft on August 27.


Instead, the Cardinals want their prized prospect to rest up. After all, in addition to the innings noted above, Samuel also threw another 7 1/3 innings over five games with Single-A Quad Cities prior to his April 21st promotion to Palm Beach.


This was Samuel's third year in the Cardinals organization. He originally signed as a free agent in June, 2006 and was assigned to the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast Cardinals in 2007. He made the jump to Quad Cities to start this season, but as noted above, remained there for less than three weeks.


Despite the great year, Samuel's season ended with a whimper. The slight-of-build hurler, 6-foot-1, 150 pounds, had suffered a muscle pull, specifically a strained groin, which sidelined him for Palm Beach's post-season action.


Samuel is expected to be fully ready to go come spring in preparation for a likely 2009 gig as the closer for Double-A Springfield.


Other bullpen notables


Other top contributors among the 2008 Palm Beach relievers are Jon Mikrut, who logged a team-best 0.55 ERA in 14 games over two stints with the club. Mikrut was the only Cardinals reliever named to the FSL Mid-Season All-Star squad, though he did not pitch in the game due to his second promotion to Springfield.


An early May promotion to Double-A was Marco Gonzalez, who had posted a 1.23 ERA in 11 games for Palm Beach. Josh Dew fanned 33 in 26 innings and delivered a 1.73 ERA in 21 games. Like Mikrut, Dew was returned once from Springfield prior to sticking there.


In 11 games of relief with the Cardinals, Pete Parise posted a 2.25 ERA in the final month. He had been promoted from Quad Cities, but not before earning our Reliever of the Year nod with the River Bandits. 


Casey Mulligan surely had the most interesting season by a Cardinals reliever. He began this season, his third in the system, as a catcher with Palm Beach. In June, he went to the Gulf Coast League to begin his professional rebirth as a pitcher.


Less than two weeks later, the 20-year-old was back in the FSL. There, the right-hander fanned an impressive 38 in 35 innings and registered a respectable 3.34 ERA over the remainder of the season. 


Relievers did it all


If that wasn't enough, Mulligan and his mates reminded baseball fans that the Palm Beach relief corps truly can accomplish anything to which they set their collective minds. On August 27, the bullpenners performed the National Anthem prior to the Cardinals game. Here's the video: link.


Not to worry, they're all keeping their day jobs!


Yet as Mulligan told Minor League Dugout, "Our closer, Samuel, he knows all the words now. He's getting much better. We taught him well."


Samuel's results after the anthem is sung indicate he also learned the words and the music to another tune, a much more difficult one, that of mastering the Florida State League's hitters in 2008.


Congratulations to our Palm Beach Cardinals Reliever of the Year, Francisco Samuel!



Master article with all 2008 Cardinals Minor League Players of the Year and the schedule for daily announcements: link. (This link is also permanently located at the lower left of The Birdhouse home page.)



Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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