Updated: Feb 8, 2018
In conjunction with my friend Colin Garner over at The Redbird Daily, we present to you our combined list of the Top 30 Prospects in the Cardinals organization! Every other day for the next two months, From January 28th until March 29th, we will be presenting you with an exhaustive evaluation on each of the top 30 prospects in the organization starting with prospect #30 and counting down to prospect #1. This is our combined list, not our own individual lists. For additional information on how we came these rankings, CLICK HERE. Without further delay, we present...
Prospect #25, RHP Sam Tewes
Age To Start The 2018 Season: 23
Drafted In The 8th Round Of The 2016 Draft
A- FIP: 3.67. A FIP: 6.50 A+ FIP: 3.20
Kyle Reis (Prospect #28 On Personal List, Prior To Combining Lists With Colin Garner)
What I like most about Tewes (pronounced like "Davis", but with a "T") is the strength for which this monster of a man came back after missing all of 2016 while recovering from Tommy John Surgery.
The fact that he only waked 15 batters over 93 innings pitched is remarkable. You usually don't see that kind of command from a pitcher, especially a big bodied pitcher, so soon after TJ surgery. That's the first big sign that this is a prospect on the rise.
Speaking of size, the 23 year old Tewes stands at an imposing 6'5 with at least 200 lbs on his frame. That's the kind of body that you bank on recovering well from TJ surgery. When I was younger I used to lump every pitcher into the same category no matter what size they were. That was foolish of me, because there's reason to believe that bigger pitchers hold up better over a long enough timeline. That's why Tewes' frame is worth talking about. He did just have surgery, but I'm betting that his body type does wonders for him over the long haul.
This gif is from a few years back, but I think it does an amazing job of showing just how good and repeatable Tewes is:
That poor batter is so over-matched. As you'll see in the gif's just a little futher down the article, his mechanics haven't changed much but his body has filled out. All great signs.
You can see that Tewes, pre-surgery, was capable of throwing all of his pitches with solid command. As a matter of fact, there's no doubt that he would have been selected in the first five rounds of the 2016 draft had it not been for the arm concerns. Instead, he's now an 8th round steal and the absolute sleeper pitching prospect in the organization.
Cardinals RHP prospect Connor Jones gets a lot of credit for being a top 30 prospect because of his ability to induce the ground ball and create weak contact, but if I had to chose a pitcher that has staying power and higher potential with that same M.O it's Tewes. His ground ball percentage last season was 53% and he did that while throwing strikes 68% of the time. Now, that ground ball percentage isn't worth fawning over, but his fastball has tremendous downward sink and it's a pitch that I believe a great deal in. It's also been reported that he has his velocity in the mid-90's regularly.
I think that the ground ball rate is going to rise in 2018. I also believe that his stuff is good enough that you'll see a bump in his 6.7 K/9.
One thing that I'm really impressed by is that he managed to pitch at least 6 innings in 9 of his 14 starts. I know that I'm beating the drum hard and being redundant about his return from Tommy John surgery, but I can't emphasize enough how impressive all of these signs and accomplishments are for a player returning from the surgery. It's rare.
He's rested. He's strong. He's poised to have an incredible and strong 2018. I'm banking that he flashes signs of dominance as he starts to regain a feel for his secondary stuff; a curve, slider, and changeup.
What I don't like about Tewes is the batting average and OPS against in 2017. His season total was .292 and .742, respectively. Those numbers are terrible. Even worse, over his last 6 starts with Palm Beach in the pitcher's haven Florida State League, Tewes allowed a batting average against of .302 and an OPS against of .725. It is encouraging that the OPS went down a tick. If it hadn't in that specific league then we'd be talking about some serious red flags. Those high rates could all be a product of his recovery as he was regaining the feel for his pitches, but the low walk rate would indicate that it wasn't a "feel" issue. That, at least for now, takes some optimism out of his projections.
Much like with Connor Jones, Tewes is too talented and skilled to be striking out so few batters. I mentioned his 6.7 K/9 and his sinking fastball above, but he's better than that number. I am always a little "dauber down" on pitching prospects that don't strike hitters out. I do expect that number to increase during the 2018 season, but it's concerning if it doesn't.
If I'm comparing Tewes to anyone it's A's RHP Liam Hendriks. Of course, Tewes is bigger than Hendriks, but the repertoire and velocity is similar. I think that he has the potential to stay a starting pitcher but he needs to get the strike out rate up and he needs to stop allowing so much contact. I think Tewes has an ultimate ceiling similar to that of Royals RHP Jason Hammel.
As always, these articles can't be done without Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. They are equally as reliant on the skills of Cardinalsgif's and NChill17. It's a pleasure to do this list with my friend Colin Garner at The Redbird Daily.
Thanks For Reading!
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