Q&A with St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Sam Tuivailala

Palm Beach Cardinals/MiLB

From shortstop to third base to the mound, Tuivailala is enjoying success down on the farm.

In the 3rd round of the 2010 MLB Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals selected Sam Tuivailala, who was listed as a shortstop at the time. Similar to college football recruiting, I believe the Cardinals selected Tuivailala because of his overall athletic ability, and they would hammer down his position during player development. They knew there was a chance he could play shortstop. If not, they could move him to third, and finally, if that didn't work out, they'd convert him back to pitcher, a position where he thrived in back in high school. This is exactly what the team ended up doing with Tuivailala, and the 21-year-old fireballer is now enjoying success on the mound.

Player Profile:

  • Throws: Right
  • Bats: Right
  • Height: 6'3"
  • Weight: 195 pounds
  • Born: October 19, 1992 (Age 21)
  • High School: Aragon HS (San Mateo, CA)

Minor League Pitching Statistics:

LEVEL

TEAM

G

IP

BABIP

LOB%

K%

BB%

ERA

FIP

Rk

JC

11

13.0

.407

80.5

35.9

20.3

4.15

4.17

A

PEO

28

35.1

.365

60.0

31.5

12.6

5.35

2.55

A+

PMB

27

35.0

.375

67.3

39.7

11.3

3.86

1.82

Interview:

Viva El Birdos: Obligatory ESPN-like question: Where does LeBron James land in free agency?

Sam Tuivailala: Personally, I would like him to stay in Miami, just because I'm a Heat fan, haha.

VEB: If you could face one big leaguer right now, who would you choose and what would the outcome be?

ST: If I could face one big leaguer I would probably have to choose Mike Trout. It is fun watching him play, and if I could face him, the outcome would probably be me striking him out or him hitting a line drive back at me but I'll catch it.

VEB: If you could "steal" one pitch from a current big leaguer, which would it be and why?

ST: One pitch I would steal would probably be Wainwright's curveball just because it's so effective and it gets batters off balance. Batters wouldn't be able to just sit on my fastball which would help me out even more.

VEB: How did the Cardinals approach you about changing from SS to 3B to pitcher? What were your initial thoughts on the matter?

ST: When they told me I would play 3rd base I was pretty happy about it. I took a couple of ground balls and it felt good playing at the corner. My 3rd year going to Johnson City I played 1 game and went 1-4 with a home run, and the very next day they told me I would be throwing off the bump, and I was excited to know that I would be pitching again. At the same time I was still a little sad because I wouldn't be swinging the bat. With that being said, the main goal here is to make it to the show and the Cardinals felt my best chance was on the bump. I was blessed to have a plan B with pitching, so I was good with the decision and happy it happened.

VEB: In your opinion, how do you feel the transition to pitcher has gone?

ST: At first, it was weird because I hadn't thrown off a mound in about 2 years. It was difficult at first because I had to work on my pitches during the season, so in games I would have to throw pitches that I wasn't really comfortable with and as a competitor, you’re always trying to have a positive outcome. I failed a lot in the beginning of my pitching career with command and being able to throw my off speed pitches, but I learned a lot from all my mistakes I made early and now I'm comfortable with everything I'm throwing. I'm throwing all my pitches with confidence. One quote that my girlfriend showed me was "Without struggle there is no progress." I'm really happy on how things are going and really excited to see how the future goes!

VEB: What are you working on most: command or improving your breaking ball?

ST: I would say both because I can throw a breaking ball, but if it's not for a strike. Batters are just going to take them for a ball and wait for my fastball. If I can control my breaking ball for a strike, it makes the batter think twice about what I'm throwing and will help me deep in counts. Throughout the season, I've been working on command and off speed pitches. I personally feel like I've made a big improvements, and I'm happy on how it's turned out.

VEB: Which player in the organization have you learned from the most? Which coach?

ST: My pitching coach last year In Peoria was Jason Simontacchi, and he was a guy that really understood us pitchers because he played. He went through the same process that we are going through right now, and he pitched in the show as well. Last year was my first year on a full season team and he talked to me about trusting my ability and my pitches. He showed us how difficult this game is, but we control our own outcome by how we prepare ourselves. He also helped me develop a routine and helped me mentally become a better pitcher because he started talking to me about when to throw a pitch or what batters tend to look for. This year, my pitching coach is Ace Adams, and I can't say one negative thing about him. He's always positive every day. He believes in everyone and is always making us feel positive no matter what the outcome is. He's always telling us that we are good enough and to stop doubting our ability because we are here for a reason.

VEB: Your 39.7 K% is absolutely incredible, but your BB% could use a little improvement. What specifically are you working on in between appearances to cut down on your walks?

ST: I've been better at cutting down my walks since the first month of the season, and I think one thing that's helped me out is being able to get ahead of the batter on the first pitch. I've been working on slowing the game down and even when I'm throwing long toss I focus on hitting my partner in the Chest and focus on repeating my mechanics the same way every time.

VEB: At the end of the 2014 season, what would you have liked to have accomplished on an individual level?

ST: At the end of the season, one of my goals is to know that I've gotten better with my command. I possibly might look back at the numbers and see what I've improved on but also what I need to improve on as well. There always something else that you can get better at and I'm going to keep working hard no matter what.

As always, I am grateful for the time and effort Sam put into answering these questions. In my opinion, these are some of the most thorough and thoughtful answers I have received in my time at VEB. I wish him the best of luck as his career continues.

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