How does one illustrate a daily producer for 12-team fantasy leagues? Well, now that we are about 2 months into the season I’d say it looks a lot like Nolan in St. Louis. No, not that Nolan, though he’s pretty great too. I’m talking about Nolan Gorman and what we might officially be able to call a bonified baseball breakout as American as apple pie, high cholesterol, and—you guessed it—baseball.
I write this with a bit of a bitter pill, as I drafted Brendan Donovan nearly everywhere as the Devil Magic Breakout Cardinals Player of the Season (TM) for 2023. Yet, after a hot spring and kickoff to the season, he has almost fizzled out completely. Meanwhile, Nolan Gorman continues ascending to new heights, i.e. he’s in the throes of a 12-game hit streak that includes 6 HR. Let’s take a look at how we got here.
We could go all the way back to single A ball to illustrate this point… but lucky for you (and mostly me) I don’t have to! There is a pattern of development we see with Gorman through his path in the minors. And now, into the MLB. Some prospects rocket up through the minors, blasting their way through each level. Others, take a more blue-collar, lunch-pail path to the big leagues like our boy here. As he was moved up to a new level, he had an adjustment period where the power took a step back so he could find his footing, and then he would follow up that campaign with a breakout that would earn him a promotion. See above.
The most important of all these is this last series of improvements. Although he got more aggressive at the plate in AAA with a rising K-rate, he also became more selective with a rising walk-rate that now sits at 12.7% so far this year (after cutting his strikeouts down to 25%). He has 7 BBs during this 12-game hit streak. So he’s not just free-swinging and running into bad pitches, he’s choosing pitches (SwStr% down to 12.9).
So what else is going right for him? He made some decent contact last year, it just didn’t go quite his way, and didn’t quite get all of the ball. But this year he’s getting around on pitches better (51% pull rate) and driving them with harder contact, which is proving to be that extra “umph” he needed. 8 of his 13 HRs have been to the pull side. Are balls a bit bouncier this year? Absolutely feels like it. The 29.5% HR/FB rate currently seems to indicate that; however, he’s no stranger to 20% conversion rates at levels once comfortable and his prospect scouting report gives him 70-grade raw power. Distilled down for ease of consumption: once he is able to identify balls better and put his A-swing on them, he is able to use his manly muscles.
Looking under the hood a bit deeper to answer the “how”… Nolan Gorman struggled to catch up to the fastball last year as evidenced by the .194 batting average. But so far this season, he is crushing fastballs at a .329 clip and has effectively doubled his slugging against them. What’s more, he is doing so without sacrificing his approach against offspeed pitches. Some players will hunt fastballs and leave themselves vulnerable to offspeed pitches, but not Gorman. He currently shows no weakness to a particular pitch type.
Nolan Gorman is showing all the signs of a real breakout and it’s hard to argue otherwise. Did I mention he’s only 23? He’s also in the middle of a resurgent lineup that has stalwarts like Arenado and Goldschmidt to draw most of the attention so he should continue to see a decent amount of fastballs. Though his power output is peaking right now, there’s enough true skill mixed in for him to maintain roughly a 20% HR/FB rate and with his current batted ball profile of 42.7% fly balls, 25+ home runs this season is fully within reach and if the bouncy balls remain in play, 30-35 could also be in the cards.
If you want more Coolwhip to top off your baseball experience, fantasy or otherwise, you can follow me on Twitter: @CoolwhipRB.