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Future Redbirds Top 25 Prospects for 2015: #13 - Sam Tuivailala

Editors Note: If you're a cranky VEB member who enjoys complaining about this list coming out with in-depth player profiles rather than as a list that you can get multiple other places on the web, I've done you the service of linking to the entire list here. Enjoy.

Sam Tuivailala
Sam Tuivailala

Acquired: Draft, 2010 (3rd Round, #106); Aragon High School, California

Birthday: 10/19/1992

Age: 22

Minor League Stops in 2014: Palm Beach (A+), Springfield (AA), Memphis (AAA), St. Louis (MLB)

2014 Totals:









60 3.15 1.68 37.9% 10.5% 45.3% 31.3% 2.5%

F-R Grades:

(You can find the 20/80 grading primer here)






80 35/40 55/65 40/45 40/50

I have a hard time highly valuing relief pitching prospects, both due to the fungible nature of relievers at the big league level as well as the fact that even the elite of the elite relief pitchers have trouble accumulating more than three wins worth of run suppression in any given season. Hence, I've always ranked pitchers earmarked for the pen lower in general than most all other positions as their ceiling is limited significantly.

That said, you'd rather have them cheap and pouring out of your farm system rather than having to cherry pick them off the waiver wire or in free agency.

Originally drafted as a third baseman who had some two way potential on the mound, the kid everyone calls "Tooey" (and Al Hrabosky is glad they do, I'm sure) moved to the bump at the latter end of 2012 and hasn't looked back since. The fastball is a legit 80 grade pitch: It sits 97-98 and hits 100 consistently with a fast arm and a smooth delivery that makes the pitch sneaky-fast in addition to it's elite velocity:

Across three different minor league levels last year, that fastball was just about all Tuivailala needed to get swings and misses at an elite rate. While the curveball is an above average pitch and can flash plus at times, he tends to cast it out towards third base a bit, which not only tips if off via arm slot, but also can tend to make it a bit slurvy as well.  You can see a good example of that here, in a video shot during the 2014 Arizona Fall League:

You can see why he's been able to get away with it: Hitters have to gear up so much for the fastball that just dropping any sort of breaking ball already has them off balance, as Boog Powell was here.  If he's able to tighten up his deuce, however, we'd be looking at a reliever that's got every bit the ceiling of a Craig Kimbrel, assuming his command also follows.

That I'm less sure about, although it's improved at every level thus far and, again, he's only been pitching full time for just over two years. If Tooey can consistently throw the fastball where he wants and be effective in the strike zone with his curveball, he could be a devastating reliever for a very long time in the big leagues.

He's also boned up on his interviews down in the bus leagues.

The one big concern I have is mechanics:

Credit: Moore Baseball

His arm is slightly late as the front foot comes down and if he didn't throw 100 mph all the time that wouldn't concern me all that much (Luke Weaver has a similar flaw).  But he doesn't throw 100 mph, and big velocity paired with a slight timing problem could be a ticking time bomb...or it could be nothing. There's no real evidence either way on mechanics at this point, despite what some may believe.

2015 Outlook:

The signing of Matt Belisle and the trade for Jordan Walden filled up the two slots in the bullpen that might have been slated for Tuivailala coming in to the spring. He wasn't overly impressive in his big league call up, but I would guess that is by design: Here's what big league hitters are like, here's how talented they are, here's what you need to do to get better. I think that's why Tooey will almost certainly be in Memphis to start the year, facing professional hitters and working on his breaking ball.

Overall Grade: B