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MLB Rookie Report: Sam Tuivailala RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals promoted reliever Sam Tuivailala to the major leagues this weekend. He gave up two hits and three runs without recording an out in his first game against the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday but more chances will come. He saw brief action with the Cardinals in 2014 and 2015 but still qualifies as a rookie for 2016. Let's take a look.

Here are the last two comments from the Baseball Prospect Book

Sam Tuivailala, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2015: Grade C+

From 2015:
Sam T. was drafted in the third round in 2010 from high school in San Mateo, California. Originally an infielder, he hit just .220/.332/.306 in 87 games. He moved to pitching in 2012 and was in the majors in less than two years. His fastball is 95-100 MPH and his curveball is pretty damn nasty, the quality stuff reflected in excellent strikeout rates

From 2016:
All still true, plus S.T. added a cutter/slider to the mix last year, giving a third hard option to overpower hitters. As his big league outings show it is all about control here: he’s a tough customer when he has it and he could close games eventually with more consistent strike-throwing. Grade B-.


Tuivailala had a 5.06 ERA in 32 innings for Triple-A Memphis before being promoted this past weekend, though the ERA was misleading: his component ratios were much better (48/14 K/BB, just 29 hits) and he'd collected 13 saves. Reports haven't changed much: he was at 94-97 MPH with the fastball yesterday, mixing in his cutter/slider around 91 and his curve in the low 80s, all in line with reports from Memphis.

And really, the outlook hasn't changed either: his future all depends on his command. Physically he projects as a power-armed short reliever with a chance to close, but whether or not he takes on a high-leverage role or languishes in the back of the bullpen will depend on his ability to A) throw strikes and B) combat lefties more consistently; he does have substantial platoon splits although he's flashed the ability to get lefties out quite well when his command is maximized.

Sometimes his catcher has to watch out, too.