Angels call up 2023 draft pick Nolan Schanuel

Jill Painter Lopez-The Sporting Tribune
The Los Angeles Angels Angels made a quick call up in their latest effort to reach the postseason.

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Recently notorious for being the first club to pull the trigger on draftees to the Majors, the Angels continued that trend in near unprecedented fashion on Friday by calling up Nolan Schanuel just 40 days after selecting him with the 11th overall selection in the 2023 MLB Draft.

For the fourth consecutive draft class, the Angels will have the first player from the draft to the Majors, with Schanuel joining Reid Detmers (1st Round, 2020), Chase Silseth (11th round, 2021), and Zach Neto (1st round, 2022). Though this trend has bred success for the Angels, it has been an uncommon trend across the sport, and in Schanuel’s scenario, nearly a half-century since this abnormality.

According to ESPN, Schanuel, 21, becomes the first player to reach the Majors within 40 days of being drafted since Jerry Don Gleaton in 1979 with the Texas Rangers. He is the first position player to reach the Majors within 40 days of being drafted since Brian Milner in 1978 with the Toronto Blue Jays (via ESPN Stats Info).

“I dream about playing in the major leagues,” Schanuel shared with reporters before his debut at Angel Stadium. “Since I was four years old it’s been a goal of mine, a dream of mine, but I didn’t think it would be in 40 days. It’s very unexpected, but I’m ready to take on the opportunity.”

Schanuel has had quite the timeline in 2023, as he is just 84 days removed from his final appearance at the collegiate level with Florida Atlantic (May 26, 2023). As noted, he is 40 days removed from being drafted (July 9, 2023). His first professional game with the Arizona Complex League affiliate came 28 days ago (July 21, 2023). And his first game in Double-A with the Rocket City Trash Pandas was just 20 days ago (July 29, 2023).

Schanuel is coming off a collegiate season where he was the nation’s best performer in Division-1, leading the nation on-base percentage and walks, while falling .002 short of the batting title, and .047 short of the slugging title, with a final slash line of .447/.615/.868. His video game-like numbers included 71 walks to just 14 strikeouts, and included 19 home runs. Despite questions about his hit tool due to his lackluster performance in the Cape Cod League in 2022 and unorthodox setup, the Angels had clear confidence in his ability and selected him 11th overall in the 2023 MLB Draft.

“Nolan did a lot of things that we really liked and that we sought out to look for,” said Angels amateur scouting director, Tim McIlvaine, during a post-draft Zoom press conference. “He understands hitting. He understands his swing. He understands what he’s trying to do at the plate and what makes him successful. There’s a lot of pieces that go into it but first and foremost we liked his bat. We think he’s going to be a pretty good hitter for us.”

Included in the post-draft Zoom press conferences was Schanuel himself identifying that following an eye exam in January 2023, he was diagnosed with astigmatism — a common and generally treatable imperfection in the curvature of the eye that causes blurred distance and near vision (Mayo Clinic) — and received a corrective lens which answered some questions and giving some credence about how his hitting would transfer at the next level.

“From day time, night time, I see it the same now,” Schanuel said in an interview with AngelsWin, conducted by Taylor Blake Ward of The Sporting Tribune. “Compared to when I didn’t have the contact, I was seeing way better in the day. At night I feel like I was seeing everything blurry. I couldn’t really see seams or see anything stand out. But now it’s a lot better.”

Following the draft, Schanuel has done nothing but hit as a professional across three levels of the minors. In five combined games and 21 plate appearances, Schanuel hit .500 with an OPS well over 1.000 between Rookie Ball and Low-A, and earned a quick promotion to Double-A Rocket City. In his brief stint with the Trash Pandas, Schanuel hit .339 with a .955 OPS in 16 games and 75 plate appearances.

“I moved pretty quickly to Double-A, and just played the game that I love and played it how I was taught to play,” stated Schanuel on his journey to the major leagues. “I didn’t change anything from what I was doing six months ago in college and just continued to play my game.”

Scouts who saw Schanuel in his brief pro stint had a consensus agreement that despite an unorthodox setup and load, he should be able to find balance and rhythm in his swing and create good timing allowing him to hit for average, though his swing will have downhill tendencies causing some trouble getting to his power in games (which is graded above-average raw in batting practice). Included with his ability to hit is an advanced eye for the strike zone and disciplined approach helping keep his chase rates down and walk rate expectancy high. Though he is a below-average runner, scouts like Schanuel’s aggression on the basepaths and effort while running. He is an average and aggressive defender at first base, while the Angels may attempt him in the corner outfield positions during instructional league.

One item scouts had concerns with is Schanuel’s unique setup with his hands starting high above his head prior to separation, his hands and bat may not be able to cover high-velocity fastballs up-and-in the zone. In a brief report on Twitter from Carlos Collazo of Baseball America, it was noted that Schanuel hit .435 with a 1.232 OPS in college against fastballs over 93 miles-per-hour, but his OPS against the same velocity fastball in the upper third was .666, despite being smaller sample.

An interesting item about the timing of Schanuel’s call up is some of the recent structures and rules under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLB Player’s Association. Teams will be granted a secondary compensation first-round pick the year following a player being voted as Rookie of the Year (example: (Player X) wins ROY in 2024, (Team X) would receive compensation first-round pick in 2024). For a player to retain his rookie eligibility, he must not go over 50 innings pitched, 130 plate appearances, or 45 days on the active roster. Schanuel’s call up comes with 44 days remaining in the season which would indicate he can remain rookie eligible for 2024, as long as he does not surpass 130 plate appearances at the Major League level, which will be a monitoring point for both the club and in general for both the compensation and rookie eligibility.

Nonetheless, Schanuel is set to make his major league debut against the Tampa Bay Rays as the leadoff hitter in front of Shohei Ohtani. 

In other moves, the Angels placed C.J. Cron on the 10-day injured list with lower back inflammation, retroactive to Aug. 16. Cron is expected to be sidelined until at least next Saturday, leaving Schanuel to fill his shoes at first base.

Additionally, Logan O’Hoppe made his highly anticipated return after being activated off the IL. O’Hoppe has been out since April 20 with a torn labrum, but is set to start as the primary catcher in Friday’s game. 

Finally, Anthony Rendon, who has been out since July 4 after fouling a ball off his shin, was moved to the 60-day IL. Initially the shin injury did not seem serious, until the MRI showed a bone bruise in his shin and bleeding inside the bone. At the earliest, Rendon will not be eligible to return until Sept. 9.