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
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
Our Scout.com 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
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 Scout.com 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
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
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
An early May promotion to Double-A
was Marco Gonzalez, who had posted a
1.23 ERA in 11 games for
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
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
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
Master article with all 2008 Scout.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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