Exit Interview: Sam Tuivailala

The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season.  This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason.  More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter.  Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.

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Player: Samuel Tuivailala

Season stats: 0-0, 36.00 ERA, 2 games, 1 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 7.000 WHIP, 14 ERA+

Hero/Goat: None

Overall grade: C-

Positives: Was one of the myriad of Cardinals to make their major league debut….shot up the ladder this year, spending time at High-A, AA and AAA before getting the call….combined in the minors, he struck out 97 batters in 60 innings with a 3.15 ERA.

Negatives: It’s possible he wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues, getting hit around in his two outings….only struck out one batter of the 10 he faced in the majors….walked 27 and threw seven wild pitches in the minors.

Overview: Tuivailala has a big arm, there’s no denying that.  He brought the heat at close to 100 in his major league outings and topped that number in the minors.  When you can strike out a third again more batters than innings pitched, you are doing something right.

That said–and my friend Bob Netherton is going to kill me for making this comparison–Maikel Cleto had a big arm as well, but he could never command it well enough to fool the hitters and get consistent outs.  I’m not really comparing Tuivailala to Cleto, because I think Sam will be much more of a major leaguer, but you can see why just throwing hard doesn’t guarantee a long and successful life at the big league level.

He’s been much more effective out in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 11 in 13 innings and putting up a 0.69 ERA while tallying five saves.  Which is encouraging to see and helps wipe out the questionable first impression he made.

Outlook: There’s no reason to think Tuivailala will be with the big club next season, at least not to start with.  He’ll only be going into his age-22 season, so some time at Memphis would not be amiss.  If he can translate his AFL work into a regular performance off Beale Street, we’ll be seeing Sam and trying to spell his name under the Arch before too long.

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