When the Angels drafted Nolan Schanuel with the 11th overall pick in this month’s 2023 MLB Draft, the organization hoped the slugging first baseman would rise quickly through its Minor League system. It was a match seemingly made for such an ascent: come Draft day, many felt Schanuel’s polished bat
When the Angels drafted Nolan Schanuel with the 11th overall pick in this month’s 2023 MLB Draft, the organization hoped the slugging first baseman would rise quickly through its Minor League system. It was a match seemingly made for such an ascent: come Draft day, many felt Schanuel’s polished bat was already more advanced than most lower-level pitching, and the Angels have shown a tendency to rapidly advance their top picks in recent years (see Zach Neto).
So it was no coincidence when the Angels sent Schanuel to Rookie ball for three games … to Single-A for two more … and then, already, to Double-A, where he began his pro career in earnest this weekend less than three weeks after his drafting. And it must have tickled the Angels to see him enjoy a big day at the plate in only his second game at the level on Sunday, when Schanuel’s three-hit day powered Rocket City to its 11-2 win over Tennessee.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” Schanuel told MLB Pipeline. “And it’s been amazing, just meeting all the guys, the coaches, everybody involved with the program. It’s definitely very interesting and and awesome just to kind of get to know everybody.”
Quickly, they in turn are getting to know Schanuel. Playing in only his seventh professional game, the 21-year-old Schanuel showed no problem whatsoever with Double-A pitching on Sunday night. He collected an RBI single in the first, singled again in the third and unloaded the bases with a three-run triple in the seventh, also stealing his first base in affiliated ball in between as the Trash Pandas routed the Smokies.
“I get nervous before every game, but this was a different kind of nervous,” Schanuel said, of starting his pro career. “It’s crazy. The fans, and everything. I haven’t played in front of a fan base like this before, so it’s definitely new for me. Just to see how involved everybody is and how loud they can get, it’s awesome. It’s definitely an experience I’ve never been a part of (previously).”
Asked about being fast-tracked through the system, Schanuel said he wasn’t expecting to be at Double-A so early in his career. But he’s taking the opportunity in stride.
“I didn’t have an idea of it at all happening,” Schanuel said. “I just kind of went out and tried to do my thing, wherever they put me and work my butt off. Whatever it was: defense, hitting, base running, it is competition 100 percent of the time.”
The Angels have had success fast-tracking their top prospects recently, notably with Neto, their starting shortstop. The 22-year-old Neto was the club’s first-round pick (13th overall) in 2022, and played just 44 Minor League games before reaching the big leagues in mid-April. He’s put together a fine rookie season, playing to a 1.8 bWAR in 63 games.
The strategy makes even more sense with Schanuel, given the instability they’ve experienced at the first base position in recent years and how polished many considered Schanuel coming out of Florida Atlantic University. Few college hitters have ever enjoyed the kind of success his did at FAU, where he posted an outrageous .447/.615/.868 slash line this spring and homered (19) more than he struck out (14). He also ranked either first or second in hitting, on-base percentage, slugging and walks, in the nation.
For the Angels and Schanuel, the rest of 2023 is about seeing how well that production translates to pro ball, and seeing how much more polish -- if any -- he needs before the bat is truly big league ready. If Schanuel keeps hitting like he already is, it may not take very long at all.
"Whether it came with results or without results, I knew that I was going to work as hard as I could and give it my all," Schanuel said. "I want to be the best person I can be 100 percent of the time. So I think just the commitment that I have towards the game kind of helped me get to where I ended up."
Joe Trezza is an contributor for MiLB.com.