- Full name Samuel Johnathan Tuivailala
- Born 10/19/1992 in San Mateo, CA
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 230 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Aragon
- Debut 09/09/2014
Drafted in the 3rd round (106th overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010 (signed for $299,700).
View Draft ReportHigh school talents that pop up the summer after their junior year quickly gain a lot of attention. Tuivailala attended a small showcase in Sacramento last summer and started a lot of buzz when he hit 93 mph on the gun. He also showed bat speed and strength as a position player and is being considered by some scouts as a third baseman. At 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, Tuivailala has good size and strength and a projectable frame. He has long arms and legs and has athletic agility. His secondary stuff is evolving. His curveball is a tweener pitch that should be a slider from his three-quarters slot, and he lacks a third pitch. He sits in the 88-89 mph range, with movement. He lacks a lot of mound time and an organization that is strong in pitching development will value him most. Tuivailala joins Judge in Fresno State's recruiting class.
Organization Prospect Rankings
When the Cardinals returned Tuivailala to Triple-A in 2016 and a late-inning role for the highest affiliate, they did so with a clear assignment: Master the cutter. Manager Mike Matheny was one of the loudest advocates of the pitch, which he believed would turn Tuivailala into a power arm that could be counted on for the seventh inning, or later. The pitch was relatively new for Tuivailala, who was only in his fourth season as a pitcher. Back in 2011, as an infielder, Tuivailala homered and his coaches already knew what awaited him later that day. A team official had come to Johnson City to tell Tuivailala he was moving to the mound. With little idea how to actually deliver a pitch, Tuivailala threw a bullpen--and touched high-90s mph. That power has been good enough to get him to the majors, but he'll need more to stick there. The intriguing cutter works at 87 mph, a needed tick down from his 97 mph heater. He has toyed with a power curve and a loopier curve, but lefthanded hitters at Triple-A torched him for a .939 OPS. Quality strikes is what he must get with the fastball and either secondary if he's to seize anything more than a recurring cameo in St. Louis.
The Cardinals rewarded Tuivailala with a September callup in 2014 as a reward for his successful transformation from a third baseman to a pitcher, and he reached the majors in just his third season on the mound. The Southern California prep product, who is of Polynesian ethnicity, earned his callup in different fashion in 2015--he was among the first relievers at Triple-A Memphis on call to St. Louis. Tuivailala earned promotions in May and July, though he couldn't quite stick, and was called up again in September. Physical and athletic, Tuivailala always has stood out for his size and velocity, averaging 97 mph with his heater and brushing 100 with late sinking life at his best. He has thrown a curveball and changeup as his secondary pitches in the past, throwing the curveball with power, and he incorporated a hard cutter in 2015, giving him a pitch other than his fastball that could find the strike zone. Tuivailala still doesn't throw enough quality strikes to challenge for high-leverage innings in St. Louis, but as soon as he does, he has a closer's repertoire. He'll enter 2016 camp with a strong chance to earn an Opening Day spot in the St. Louis bullpen.
Cardinals officials had already made the decision to move Tuivailala to the mound before he hit a home run in his final game as a position player in 2012. Carried by a double-plus fastball, he sped through four levels in 2014, reaching the majors in September. With the frame of a power forward, Tuivailala is the Cardinals' latest converted power pitcher after Jason Motte and Trevor Rosenthal. He has a fastball that can touch 100 mph, and he works consistently at 98. Fine command is all he lacks with the heat. In the Arizona Fall League, Tuivailala's curve advanced. It's a 12-to-6 breaking ball that he throws hard and with a sharp drop. He also sports a changeup that he can throw when needed, giving him an offspeed entry between his two best pitches. Tuivailala once referred to pitching as his "Plan B," and in less than two years he's gone swifter and higher than his Plan A was likely to take him. If he opens the season at Triple-A Memphis as a closer, it won't be long before he's called to contribute in the majors.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Fastball in the Texas League in 2014
- Rated Best Fastball in the Florida State League in 2014