ANAHEIM, Calif. — When the Angels called up 2023 draft pick Nolan Schanuel in August just 40 days after he was selected, the 21-year-old found himself in the center of the major league show, fulfilling a dream that he’s had since he was four years old.
Looking back from his major league debut on Aug. 18 to now, Schanuel said it’s been a whirlwind experience. He made his last collegiate appearance with Florida Atlantic University on May 26, and less than 100 days later, he was leading off in the lineup ahead of Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani.
“It’s been pretty crazy. Just a couple months ago, I was in college and now I’m playing with some of the greatest baseball players of all time. And just to be able to learn from them and feed off their energy and see what it is on a day to day basis to be a major league baseball player is amazing,” said the Angels 11th overall selection.
From adjusting to the pace of the game to finding the “sweet spot” of a wooden bat, Schanuel said he’s learned the importance of “playing the game that you’ve always played.” As the first 2023 draft pick to debut in the majors this season, Schanuel joined a group of young Halos who also found themselves in the majors relatively quickly, including Reid Detmers (1st Round, 2020), Chase Silseth (11th round, 2021), Zach Neto (1st round, 2022) and Ben Joyce (3rd round, 2022).
Like Detmers, Silseth, Joyce and Neto, Schanuel has taken it all in stride to become a bright spot in the Angels lineup, unveiling serious potential for the future. The first baseman hit his first home run against the Detroit Tigers on Friday night when he got a hold of a fastball and launched it 389 feet into right field.
“He’s just been swinging the bat very well,” said Angels manager Phil Nevin. “It was a matter of time before he got into one. He does have that kind of power. I like the at-bats. The at-bats are really, really good.”
Relieved to have logged his first major league home run, Schanuel said after the game that he knew as soon as he hit it, that it was headed for the stands. He traded a bat with fans to get the ball back and plans to display the keepsake at home, so he can remember the moment.
“It just felt a little different than the others. And finally, finally, it’s been a while but it felt good to get it out of the way,” he said.
The MLB career first showcased a glimpse of power that could become a bigger part of Schanuel’s offense in the future, but for now, he’s focused on being an effective leadoff hitter who gets on base for the players behind him.
It’s a goal that he is already succeeding at as the young player has reached base safely in each of his first 22 MLB games. Hitting a double during Sunday’s game against the Detroit Tigers, he tied for the sixth longest such streak in MLB history since 1961 with Chicago Cubs’ Christopher Morel who reached base safely in his first 22 games in 2022.
“I would say he’s one of the best bat-to-ball guys in baseball right now and he’s had 100 at bats or whatever he’s had, so I’m really impressed. I think there are many more home runs to come, but I can’t say enough about that guy. He played like two weeks in the minor leagues and is holding his own in the big leagues,” said Jared Walsh, who was called up from Salt Lake earlier this week.
In Angels history, Schanuel holds the franchise record for longest on base streak to begin a MLB career, with Darin Erstad’s 15-game on base streak behind him from 1996.
“As of right now, I am just trying to fill the role of being the leadoff guy and just get on base for the big guys behind me,” said Schanuel.
The transition from a young college player to a major leaguer has come with its fair share of learning moments, explained Schanuel. When he first got to the Angels clubhouse, he relied on veteran players, Mike Moustakas and Brandon Drury, to help him navigate the big leagues terrain.
“They both have taken that role of being my mentor, and helped me ease into the process, especially the first week. They helped out a lot and that was when I really needed it. They’ve been here for me and it’s been awesome,” he said.
With 12 games left in the season, Schanuel said, “The one goal every day is to win, just be able to go out and compete and put the team in the best possible chance to win for my role.”
As the Angels enter the final stretch of their season, Nevin has talked consistently about the future of the team, highlighting the youth and potential of the roster with such players as Detmers, Neto, Joyce, Logan O’Hoppe and of course, Schanuel.
“The way he slowed things down in the box this quick in his career, really from day one. I think he struck out his first at bat, and after that, he’s looked comfortable at everything. He knows the zone as well as anybody I’ve seen,” said Nevin after Sunday’s game.
Schanuel said he’ll be working in the offseason to be whatever the team needs. Whether that means “unlocking some power” at the plate or continuing to be a “speedy leadoff,” Schanuel is ready for whatever 2024 has in store for him.