This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.
In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #25, Sam Tewes.
25. Sam Tewes – RHP
Entering age-23 season
Drafted in the 8th round of the 2016 draft
3.48 ERA across three levels in 2017
What I Like
On March 31, 2016, while still at Wichita State, Tewes underwent Tommy John surgery. The fact that the Cardinals selected him in the 8th round that year, knowing he was still a year or more away from getting on the mound in a game, speaks to how highly they think of him. Tewes made them look smart last season by earning two promotions.
Tewes struggled in his first month in the New York-Penn League, allowing a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings of work. Hardly a surprise, given it was his first game action in over a year. He found his footing in July when he went 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA and earned a promotion to Peoria. He made one start in Peoria before being pushed all the way to Palm Beach., where he finished the season with a 3.09 ERA across ten outings (six starts).
Two promotions in a player’s first professional season are telling enough, but there are some indicators of future success in his peripheral statistics. Across all three levels, Tewes issued walks at a rate below 5%. Coupled with a groundball rate at or near 50%, you have the building blocks of sustainable, long-term success. In fact, although he posted ERA’s that were quite good, according to the FIP and xFIP, which try to filter out batted ball luck, Tewes pitched better than his ERA at all three levels.
Tewes went at least seven innings in six of his 14 starts last year, and at least six innings in nine of his 14 starts. The ability of starters to go deep into games isn’t exactly common in the minor leagues. Case in point: Sandy Alcantara. In 22 total starts (eight more than Tewes), Alcantara completed seven innings exactly once. Alcantara certainly isn’t known for going deep into games, quite the opposite in fact. But even when you stack Tewes up against someone who is now the Marlin’s top prospect, his ability to go deep into games stands out, even in his first year back from surgery.
What I Don’t Like
Tewes struck out between 16% and 18% of hitters last year. I’m surprised by that statistic more than anything else, especially considering he’s such a big guy (6’5″, 200 pounds) and has a fastball that can reach the mid-90’s. Diminished velocity as a result of surgery could be a factor. So could a conscious effort to pitch to contact and go deeper into starts, a la Dakota Hudson last season. He showed flashes of strikeout ability, like on August 28th when he struck out 11 hitters in six innings. It just wasn’t consistent enough, and that’s a definite thing to watch in 2018.
A fair number of Tewes’ fly balls allowed leave the yard. That’s not terribly concerning since he does such a good job at getting ground balls, but if hitters start elevating off of him, it could be bad news.
The last concern is that he has had Tommy John surgery. I don’t know what that means as far as his risk of tearing his UCL again, and I’m not at all trying to say he’s injury prone or anything of the sort. A second surgery, however, could have severe consequences. There simply aren’t that many pitchers who have returned from two reconstructive surgeries. Anyways, that’s enough doom and gloom for someone who had an extremely successful first season of pro ball. Here’s to a healthy and strikeout filled 2018 for Sam Tewes.
Thanks for reading!