Following the summer of 2022, Nolan Schanuel knew something was a bit off. Schanuel was two years into his collegiate career which saw him slashing a combined .356/.460/.619 in 521 plate appearances between his freshman and sophomore campaigns at Florida Atlantic, more than just a moderate line. It was his performance at night and in the Cape Cod League that caused some pause in his prospect status after hitting just .200 with a .614 OPS in 155 plate appearances.
“I knew I was struggling my sophomore spring with seeing at night and I didn’t know what it was,” Schanuel said. “Then, throughout the Cape Cod League, I definitely noticed something.”
Schanuel returned home to the Eastern shoreline of South Florida and promptly went to see an eye doctor. It was then confirmed he had an Astigmatism in his right eye and a contact would be the cure to fixing and adjusting his vision, beginning in January 2023.
Schanuel returned to Florida Atlantic for his junior season where his numbers skyrocketed to nearly taking the Division 1 triple crown for slash line, falling just .002 off the batting title, leading D1 in on-base percentage at .615, and finishing second in slugging percentage at .868.
“The ball was not even 3D – it was 4D,” Schanuel exclaimed. “It was poking out that much more being able to see the spin out of the hand. It helped me so much and I think that was a big reason my walk-to-strikeout ratio was (much better) than it was in prior years.”
With a still impressive 67-to-43 walk-to-strikeout ratio during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Schanuel had video game numbers his junior year walking 71 times while striking out just 14 times over 289 plate appearances.
The added contact and a new hitting coach at FAU — Ricky Santiago — aided in Schanuel’s profile to keep him better balanced at the plate while focusing on syncing into his back hip and back knee. Those changes not only boosted his performance, but also landed him as the 11th selection by the Angels in the 2023 MLB Draft.
Whether unknowing of the contact lens, or just unsure of his questionable wood bat track record, there was a quick retort to the Angels selection of Schanuel. With the newfound knowledge, some analysts, myself included, have a new view towards the first baseman. Added to the questions was an unorthodox leg kick and load that is uncommon among players taken in the same draft range as Schanuel but did not deter the Angels.
“We looked at a ton of players,” said Angels amateur scouting director, Tim McIlvaine. “Nolan did a lot of things that we really liked, and we sought out to look for.
“He’s a really good baseball mind when you talk to him. He understands hitting. He understands his swing. He understands what he’s trying to do at the plate — what makes him successful. There were 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.”
With a stellar performance against mid-major arms, the question arose of how Schanuel will handle higher velocity from pro arms and how his leg kick, which he implemented early in college while emulating Zach Neto who he played with in the South Florida Collegiate League to add more power and balance.
The Angels saw Schanuel on a frequent basis through the early stages of his collegiate career and into the spring, which included midweek games against higher-tier programs and higher velocity arms.
“Timing is one of his strongest assets,” McIlvaine noted. “Being able to be on time and seeing the ball so early out of the hand and he picks up breaking balls, he picks up changeups, he picks up fastballs. He’s just able to be on time. I think that’s a big thing for hitters is that ability and it’s one of his best assets. He handled velocity just fine.”
Now seven months removed from adding a contact to his right eye and answering any questions about how his bat will perform against pro-level arms, Schanuel heard his name called in the first-round of the MLB Draft, and is eager to join the Angels, even being so excited to say he’s ready to fly to Anaheim tomorrow.
“I was ecstatic,” Schanuel exclaimed. “Throughout the day I’ve been nervous, and I get the phone call from my advisor saying the Angels are taking me with the next pick and I immediately went into tears. This has been a lifelong dream of mine and to be in the Angels organization made that dream 10 times better. I’m so excited and I’m ready to go.”
The initial plan for the Angels and Schanuel is to send him to an affiliate, most likely one of the Angels Single-A affiliates, as a first baseman, and potentially place him in the outfield during instructional league and beyond to continue his versatility. Schanuel openly noted he feels he can be a utility player who could play in right field, second base, or third base, if given the opportunity.
A common theme among Angels recent draft picks is selecting players who could be quick-to-the-Majors, but McIlvaine and the Angels did not note that as a focus towards this year’s draft class despite taking one of the more advanced college hitters once again.
“We don’t sit there and say, ‘Who’s going to be quickest to the big leagues?'” McIlvaine said. “We talked about a lot of high school kids this week too. On our board today there were a couple of different ways it could have gone.”
As for Schanuel and what kind of player the Angels are getting, Schanuel gave his own personal scouting report:
“I definitely feel that I’m a good hitter,” Schanuel said. “I could run a little bit which is one thing I definitely want to work on throughout my career is just getting faster. Be able to steal a couple more bases. Like I said defensive wise, I see myself as a utility guy. Could play anywhere until I get to the pros, and they stick me at one position. I see myself as a top contender coming up.”
As the Angels prepare for the second and third day of their 2023 draft, Nolan Schanuel’s eagerness is contagious, and his preparedness to join the club is apparent.”
“We’re ready to be a West Coast family,” Schanuel said with a smile. “It’s super exciting to call myself an Angel.”