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Viva El Birdos 2018 Cardinals Prospect Rankings: Sam Tewes

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The first player in this series just missed the rankings

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at St. Louis Cardinals Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: A.E. Schafer aka the red baron has once again compiled a rather impressive list of Cardinals prospects doing a write-up on 40 individual prospects. As a convenience to our readers, he releases the list in a couple big chunks so everyone can read about all of the prospects at once. While that is a convenience to all of us who eagerly await the arrival of prospect lists, it might not be as convenient if you are looking for a player’s particular scouting report. So, as a further convenience, we are putting the individual scouting reports in separate posts to make individual players easier to find. You can find the full lists on our 2018 prospect page here. —CE

Sam Tewes, RHP

6’5”, 200 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Level(s) in 2017: State College (SS), Peoria (Low A), Palm Beach (High A)

Relevant Numbers: 43.2 IP, 3.20 FIP, 15% K-BB% (all at Palm Beach)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Tewes is a Tommy John survivor. That is the first thing one needs to know about him. It is not, of course, a defining feature of him as a person, one assumes, but it is a defining feature of him as a prospect, at least to this point. A surgically-repaired elbow informs how we think of him going forward — particularly since we know there is an average number of innings TJ guys tend to get out of their new ligaments — and also goes a long way toward explaining the course of his career so far.

Tewes was taken out of Wichita State by the Cardinals in 2016, in the eighth round. For a guy with his frame, solid stuff, and projectability, that seems late. On the other hand, for a pitcher who pitched well for the Shockers his freshman season, missed much of his sophomore campaign with shoulder inflammation, and then popped his elbow less than fifteen innings into his junior year, the eighth round might seem a little generous. In fact, when you consider that track record of health, it would seem that relying on Sam Tewes to provide any return at all might be slightly foolish.

The best news about Tewes’s 2017 season is this: he was healthy all year. I mean, he was really good, too, which is awesome news, but the best is just the fact he wasn’t shut down, didn’t seem to have any real issues, and just took the mound when his turn came around. The miniscule walk rate? Well, that’s just gravy.

Tewes is kind of a throwback prospect for me, by which I don’t mean he’s somehow similar to players from the distant past. Rather, I mean he’s basically every pitching prospect the Cardinals had, say, ten years ago. Let me show you what I mean.

Sam Tewes’s repertoire is as follows: he throws a sinking fastball in the low 90s, delivered on a good downhill plane in addition to sink, which allows him to roll up big ground ball totals. I was told that he actually threw a little harder this year than he did in college pre-surgery, as his fastball sat more consistently in the low 90s, mostly 92-93, rather than the 89-91 he typically averaged for the Shockers. He augments the sinker with a pair of offspeed pitches, a curveball with good shape and a changeup that has good sink but is too often telegraphed. The change is probably a little ahead of the curve, but both need work.

See? Doesn’t that sound like literally every college pitcher the Cards drafted ten years ago? That’s the same scouting report I wrote for Clay Mortensen for the RFT in March of 2008, only with a curve instead of a slider. It’s the same scouting report Lance Lynn had coming out of Ole Miss, though we know he actually did evolve into a different sort of pitcher.

Which, hey, is fine. Big-framed righthanders with good sinkers and promising offspeed stuff will probably never go out of style, even with the bottom of the strike zone being less of a safe space than it used to be. The really exciting thing about Tewes is that ultra-low walk rate; if he can pound the zone with a quality sinker at the rate he has in the minors, he just might have a career in the big leagues. The health is a concern, certainly, and while the bullpen is always an option, I’m not sure he’s the kind of pitcher who would benefit a ton from maxing out in shorter bursts. Maybe he would; it’s tough to say who gets a boost and who doesn’t. But the best, most ideal route would be for the Cardinals to help him clean up a shortarm delivery that lends some deception but probably also contributed to his injuries, and hope his repaired elbow holds up over the long haul. The somewhat limited ceiling on Tewes, as well as some hesitation on my part to buy in on a guy with multiple arm issues in the past, are what have him here in the honourable mentions, rather than on the list proper, but another season like the one he just had and he’ll jump up a long way in a hurry.

If he’s good, it will look like: Jon Garland is the name that comes to mind for me with Tewes. Now, it should be noted Jon Garland’s greatest quality was probably his durability, so that’s obviously a question mark in terms of a comp, but that mid-2000s version of Garland who rode a tiny walk rate and lots of weak ground ball contact to success is the sort of pitcher I envision when I picture the good version of Sam Tewes.

via Jeff Zimmerman: