If one looks back at the players the Cardinals have sent to the AFL over the last ten years or so, the trend that emerges is that most of those players fell into two categories: Top prospects who struggled or were injured and can use the extra reps or average or one-tool prospects who had a great season in the lower minors and the club is interested to see how they fare against some really good competition over a month's time. The 2014 roster of pitchers breaks very much along these lines:
Tyrell Jenkins, SP
2014 (Palm Beach A+): 13 G, 74 IP, 3.28/4.12 ERA/FIP, 13.3% K, 7.4% BB
Jenkins missed most of the first half of the season recovering from a shoulder issue that plagued him in the second half of 2013 -- he's pitched just 133.1 innings in the last two seasons. The lack of time on the mound has really stalled his development and that's likely why he's on the roster. He's got 26 innings to bank before he hits the century mark for the year.
The other reason Jenkins is here? HIs last five starts, where his strikeout stuff really started to come back. Four of the five were quality starts and the 27 K's in 33 innings was a markedly better rate than he had the rest of the year. I'll be interested to see how his power sinker fares against some better competition.
Mitch Harris, RHP
2014 (Palm Beach, Springfield, Memphis): 57.1 IP, 3.92/3.93 ERA/FIP, 19.2% K, 8.1% BB
Considering his age (28) and his last name, you'd expect Harris to be rubbing Vaseline and snot on the ball while stealing Jobu's rum and just generally keeping things light around the clubhouse...
The Cardinals selected Harris in 2008 in the 13th round out of the Naval Academy, and he then proceeded to serve his country for four years before signing a deal to play for the Cardinals last year. He's moved quickly through the ranks this season, and pitched 1 inning for Memphis at the tail end of the season. The peripherals at Springfield weren't great either, but the club must see some sort of bullpen potential in Harris or he wouldn't be on this roster.
Chris Perry, RHP
2014 (Peoria, Palm Beach): 63 IP, 2.14/2.12 ERA/FIP, 39.2% K, 8.4% BB
Perry was one of my favorite Cardinal minor leaguers to cover this season, striking out just under 40% of the hitters he faced and just generally being impossible to put the ball in play against: In the two stops combined he allowed just 35 hits in those 63 innings. He's 24 and could be a relevant bullpen solution for the Cardinals as soon as next year, so I'm guessing he falls into the category of "let's see him against really good hitters for a month" to gauge whether he can jump to AA and AAA successfully in 2015.
Sam Tuivailala, RHP
2014: (Palm Beach, Springfield): 60 IP, 3.15/1.68 ERA/FIP, 37.9% K, 10.5% BB
That FIP is no joke folks: Hitters had a .373 BABIP against one of the hardest throwers in the minor leagues this season (topping out at 102 mph multiple times with Springfield). Thing is, that's a trend for Sam ever since he took to the mound in late 2012 -- hitters have always had a high BABIP against him, and that's a bit of a concern for a guy who throws as hard as he does. How are hitters squaring him up so easily?
The AFL spot for Tooey is certainly a test to see how he does against better hitters and to build on his excellent half season for Springfield. The fastball is must see and he could be helping the Cards at some point in 2015.
We'll take a look at the position players selected as well as a few other prospects to watch later this week.