By Taylor Blake Ward, AngelsWin.com Columnist
Taylor Blake Ward sits down with 2023 Angels first-round pick, Nolan Schanuel, to chat about his pro debut, first night in front of a large crowd, and how seeing an eye doctor before his junior season aided to not only his performance and draft stock, but also his confidence in carrying his hit tool to wood bats.
Schanuel signed with the Angels for slot value, $5,253,000, which is a new record bonus for any Angels draftee by $583,000 (Reid Detmers, 2020).
Schanuel was the best performer across Division-1 baseball in 2023, barely missing out on the slash line Triple Crown, leading the nation in on-base percentage, falling just .002 short of the batting title, and .047 short of the slugging title which went to a player at the high-elevation Brigham Young. Regardless of falling short of a fun title, Schanuel put up video game numbers slashing .447/.615/.868 with 71 walks to 14 strikeouts and 19 home runs to boot, leading to plenty of first-round chatter and the eventual 11th overall selection by the Angels.
Schanuel's offensive operation begins with an unorthodox setup with a high hand load and exaggerated leg kick (though not to point of Zach Neto, Josh Donaldson, Bo Bichette, etc.). It's a load you'd likely see more overseas in Asia, but Schanuel does a fine job of keeping his body and swing in sync throughout the process putting him in a good hitting position at separation. As he comes out of his load, Schanuel has a balanced uphill swing from the left side with some explosion to the ball. He has shown good barrel control with above-average bat speed, giving him an above-average or plus future hit tool and with the present physical maturation to his six-foot-four, 220-pound frame with natural strength average-or-better power projection. Schanuel is a highly disciplined hitter who has an excellent eye for the zone, who rarely chases out of the zone and can punish pitches in the zone, with an approach that helped carry him into first-round status. There were questions about Schanuel's actual hit tool -- particularly with a wood bat -- after hitting just .200 in 125 at bats in the Cape Cod League in 2022 and coming from a mid-major conference with limited velocity. However, Schanuel had a realization that something was off and had an eye doctor appointment that led to an Astigmatism diagnosis and a corrective contact placed in his right eye in January of 2023. Schanuel noted his vision went to four-dimensional status from that point and he felt like a new hitter which should give more confidence in his long-term ability to hit. He also has a short track record against some major programs, albeit coming from midweek games and lesser on-mound prospects.
An average runner, Schanuel has enough speed to keep catchers honest but likely will never be a double-digit base stealer. The Angels will hold Schanuel to first base at least until instructional league where he could see time in the corner outfield. Schanuel is a good defender at the bag and has some athleticism that could lead to corner versatility, with personal comments about hoping to be a utility man at the next level with time at third and second base, though the Angels did not express those similar feelings initially. With so much promise on the bat, Schanuel is a high-floor type collegiate with outstanding performances under his belt and hopes that everything will translate to become a middle-of-the-order hitter in the future.
Tim McIlvaine on Nolan Schanuel: "Nolan did a lot of things that we really liked and that we sought out to look for. He's got power. He can hit. He knows the zone. He's very patient. He doesn't get himself out. He rarely ever strikes out. Took a lot of walks this year, had a lot of extra-base hits, and can hit the ball over the wall. He's a good player. He's a really good baseball mind when you sit down and talk to him. 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... This guy is wired right. I think he's a really good competitor. He really wants to win. He's made himself better and he's going to make us better. He really makes you like him."
Nolan Schanuel 2023 NCAA Division-1 statistics: 289 PA, .447/.615/.868, 70 R, 19 HR, 64 RBI, 14 SB, 24.6 BB%, 4.8 K%
Check out our exclusive interview conducted by Taylor Blake Ward with the Angels first round draft pick Nolan Schanuel.