Updated: May 1, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days, starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of a quirky and goofy guy, and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Nolan Gorman - Third Baseman
Drafted with the 19th overall selection in the 2018 draft
Rookie-Level Johnson City and Full Season-A Peoria
Age: Freaking 18
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
As all of you know by now, I'm not the type to get over-hyped by early success. However, if you weren't hyped-up over Gorman's early success then you don't have a pulse, you feed off of other humans, and you're probably undead.
You're a zombie, is what I'm saying. I'm trying to tell you that you are a zombie.
First, the power-hitting lefty never should have made it to the Cardinals at 19th overall. When we were doing our Prospect after Dark draft show on the night of the draft, I couldn't even formulate an opinion on the Cardinals' decision to draft Gorman. That's because I didn't think that there would be any way in the world that he'd fall that far. I did extensive research on roughly 65 players that were expected to be drafted between 10th and 55th before the draft. Not once was Gorman a player that was supposed to be available at that pick. So, to say that the very act of being able to draft Gorman was a victory in-and-of-itself is not an understatement.
You know, I get ahead of myself a lot. Let me tell you what Nolan Gorman is. I mean, he's a monster, but let me tell you what he was prior to being drafted by the Cardinals.
Nolan Gorman is a former player of the year for the state of Arizona. He's a WBSC U18 champion. He's won countless MVP awards as a high schooler, and more home run derby's than MVP's, if I'm guessing. He's pedigreed, and he has an amazing support system around him - whether that be his family or close friend and 16th overall pick in the 2018 draft Matthew Liberatore - to keep him grounded. Everything about this young man SCREAMS "special." I love this home run .gif below, and Gorman's reaction to the home run, so much! There's something about the smile on this kid that reminds me of Rick Ankiel. This shot came at Petco Park during the Perfect Game All-American game:
Everyone that is reading this already knows how 2018 went for Gorman after he was drafted: He blew apart the hitter-friendly and pitching-weak Appalachian League for a month and a half, and then "struggled" in the full-season-and-advanced Midwest League for Peoria.
The first qualifier about the Appy League is that's it's a hitter's league with weak pitching. Even then, that fact should not, in any way, diminish the success that Gorman had there. He was one of the younger players in that league, and only the cream of the crop do what he did there. It's AWESOME to say, with full confidence, that he was just too damn good for a league that 99.9% of his former high school peers would need a life jacket just to tread.
That leads us to his time at Peoria. You'll notice the impressive 9.3% walk rate that he put up in the Midwest League. That's because pitchers didn't get cute with him. If they got behind him, they walked him. If their intent wasn't to walk him then their intent was to force him to chase, which he didn't do often. Take note of this four pitch walk. The first pitch is on the outside, and the pitcher was hoping that Gorman would chase. After that, with a runner on base, the pitcher doesn't even mess around near the strike zone. Just to reiterate, in this situation, this is 18-year-old Gorman hitting at full season-A against someone that is nearly a handful of years older than he is.
Now, you'll also notice the large 36.4% strikeout rate at Peoria and wonder "what do you mean he didn't chase?" Well, he often didn't. He was just BEAT. He was beat by advanced breaking pitches. He was beat by advanced and high-velocity fastballs. He was beat by pitchers that were just... BETTER than he had ever seen. Again, that's not to diminish what he did.
If you were to tell me that the Cardinals were going to draft a recently turned 18-year-old that would put up a slugging percentage of .426 at a full season affiliate in the year of his draft, then I'd tell you that the Cardinals made the right selection 100 times out of 100 times regardless of what happens from here.
One of the things that really impressed me about Gorman was that you could see the little tweaks that he was making to his swing at Peoria. Upon entering the organization, Gorman held his hands low during the pre-load, and out in-front of the middle part of his torso. As the pitching he saw got better, his hands raised just a little bit, and moved back just a little bit.
It was a smart mechanical adjustment that many didn't notice. It's just a little tweak that will help him moving forward. Really, small tweaks are all that is needed for Gorman moving forward, mechanically. Gorman does such an amazing job of generating power with his hips, and through the quickness of his swing, that he doesn't need the extra hand-leverage that the lower-middle slot was generating. I wanted to bring this up to also illustrate that this is a SMART baseball mind.
To call Gorman's power potential a "carry tool" might just be the understatement of this entire countdown. It's definitely "leGit", and Gorman can launch the ball to all parts of the field. The left-handed swinger is going to hit some tape measure shots to both right and left field, and I'm not sure that anyone else on the D35 (other than Leandro Cedeno) is capable of that type of opposite field power, in-game. It's so much fun to watch this kid get a hold of a ball. His swing is so easy and effortless, too. Sometimes it'll look like he just flicked his wrists while putting a ball over the wall. Some players just have this innate ability to hit for power. Gorman is one of those type of players.
There will never be such a thing as a fastball sneaked by Gorman on the inner-half of the plate. I'm not even kidding. I don't think that I've seen him swing and miss at that pitch once.
These are the pitches that he hits a million miles. These are the pitches that sound and look different off of the bat. These are the pitches that you don't even realize that he's made contact with because of how strongly he annihilates them. These are the pitches that turn into a cloud of dust and vapor trails off of his bat.
For an 18-year-old, he is an extremely hard worker, and he is dedicated to the craft. Much like our #10 prospect Dylan Carlson, Gorman just has an understanding of baseball and hitting. That skill will carry him further than the collective brain-trusts for at least 18 other teams would have anticipated on June 4th, 2018. He still has plenty of work to do against advanced breaking pitches, as well as pitcher's that are smarter (in a "crafty" way) than he is. He was successful against lefties at Johnson City, but they really seemed to get the better of him in the Midwest League. That's something that we are going to need to keep a close eye on.
When it comes to his defensive prowess, I am still on the fence. I would caution everyone else to be, as well. While his fielding percentage was low, and his error count was high (two numbers that should be taken with a grain of salt anyway), there was never anything that he did while at Peoria that made me think "this guy isn't going to be able to stick at third." One thing that was evident, was that Gorman had just never faced that level of hard hit balls. That's just such a tough jump to make, from High School to the Midwest League. I'll go as far as to say that I was actually impressed by him at the hot corner while at Peoria.
One thing that is for sure, is that Gorman's arm is very strong. I'm not ready to call it "plus" just yet, but it has the ability to get there. Especially if he gets a second to set and plant.
Now, he does have a way of casting the ball down the first base line when he throws it to first. That is something that is a bit worrisome. It usually happens when he doesn't have his feet and momentum going towards first base, or when he lazily slings the ball side-arm. He also gets a little case of happy feet when he has time, and while moving to his sides. However, the quickness, athleticism, and arm strength are all there, and that makes me believe that this issues won't continue to be as glaring as he gets more reps and seasoning.
This is all being written just to reiterate that he has yet to show me anything that makes me question his ability to stick at third.
One thing that impresses me about Gorman is his physical stature. He's STRONG and muscular, and you can tell. There's no work to be done with his body. I don't want him to get bigger or stronger. He doesn't need to get lighter or leaner. He's 18 years old, and he's a near perfect specimen of physical athleticism.
More than likely, Gorman will start 2019 at Peoria. However, a good spring could find the Cardinals being extra-aggressive, with Palm Beach as a definite possibility.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Nolan Gorman is an elite prospect. The only reason that he is third on this list is because the #1 guy has already made a major league impact and the #2 guy is more polished, older, and advanced. His power and age-advanced-approach are very real and exciting, and it's been a very long time since the Cardinals were able to draft a bat worthy of this much hype. While 2018 was just a small sample of what's to come, 2019 will give us a clearer idea of what the future has in store for this phenom. As of right now, he appears to be on the Tyler O'Neill-advanced-age-with-power-that-is-speeding-through-the-minors-as-a-top-power-prospect-that's-going-to-win-some-big-awards-and-place-high-on-top-prospect-lists-on-his-way-to-the-majors course.
**SPRING TRAINING UPDATE**
Gorman has had some rough at-bats during spring, and two awful at-bat against baseball's best pitcher, Max Scherzer. Then, he hit this home run and all was right in the world (he also had two errors in this game):
MAY 1st UPDATE
WELP, Mr. Gorman couldn't have gotten off to a better start. He's doing everything that we hoped that he would do, and more. He's really cleaned up his defense, and that's as big of a positive as all of the home runs that he's hitting. Also, just when you think that pitchers are adjusting to him, he does something BIG to prove you wrong. He's special, no doubt about it.
Thanks to FanGraphs for their contribution to all of the D35 articles.
Thanks For Reading!!