Schanuel hoping offseason prep will pay off in ’24

February 23rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger's Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It’s not very often that a player reaches the Majors before he participates in Spring Training.

But that’s exactly what first baseman Nolan Schanuel, the club’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 95 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, did last year, called up just 40 days after he was the No. 11 overall selection in the 2023 MLB Draft. Despite his inexperience, Schanuel fared well in his first taste of the Majors, hitting .275/.402/.330 with one homer, three doubles and six RBIs in 29 games. He reached base safely in all 29 contests -- the fourth-longest on-base streak to open a career in AL or NL history -- and walked 20 times against 19 strikeouts.

Schanuel said he learned plenty from his experience in the big leagues and that his goal during the offseason was to build strength to get through the rigors of a full 162-game season.

“[This] offseason, I wanted to focus on getting stronger and improve every aspect of my game,” Schanuel said. “That’s what I geared my offseason toward.”

Schanuel acknowledged he dealt with some fatigue late last season, a reason why he wanted to work on his strength this offseason. He had previously been playing almost year-round for Florida Atlantic University and the Cape Cod Baseball League, so the offseason was the first time he’d been away from playing in baseball games for more than a month.

He spent his offseason in Florida, working out at Joey D Sports Training Center in Jupiter, Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens and at FAU in his native Boca Raton. But he also said he gets bored easily and wanted to do something that would both motivate himself and keep him strong for the season.

So for two days a week, he decided to stand for the entire day -- except to eat -- to build strength and create self-discipline. His routine was detailed last week in a story in The Athletic, and several teammates have since joked about his abnormal way of preparing for the season.

“The longest I’d been away from playing baseball was a month, so I spent my time doing some stupid challenges, some might say,” Schanuel said with a laugh. “Just keep my mind occupied, keep my body occupied with workouts, competitions, challenges, whatever. Just filling time with that kind of stuff instead of baseball.”

Angels superstar Mike Trout read about Schanuel’s standing routine and joked that he was going to need a word with the 22-year-old.

“I read about his workouts, and I think we’re going to need to have a conversation,” Trout said with a smile. “I’ve never heard of that one. But it’s just fun to watch these guys grow.”

Jokes aside, Schanuel figures to be a major part of the Angels’ emerging young core this season, as manager Ron Washington has already tabbed him as the club’s starting first baseman and sees him hitting second to open the season.

Schanuel served as the leadoff hitter in his stint with the Angels last year, but Washington sees Luis Rengifo or Mickey Moniak in that role in 2024.

“I want somebody who has some speed,” Washington said of the leadoff spot. “I don’t want Schanuel to get on the bag and then clog them. Now, if I have to come back and make him the leadoff hitter because that’s what he’s done, I’m not saying it can’t change. But I want him in the second hole, because he can move the baseball around the field, and the second hole is situational.”

Schanuel said he’s comfortable wherever he’s hitting and believes he can tap into more power if that’s what the Angels need. He only hit one home run and three doubles in 132 plate appearances last season, but his approach was to get on base for others as a table setter. He certainly has the frame for power at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and he hit 19 homers in 59 games for FAU last season.

“I’ll take it day by day and not force anything,” Schanuel said. “I’ll do whatever my job is, whether I'm supposed to get RBIs or score runs.”

Schanuel said he’s excited for his first full season in the Majors and enjoys being part of the club’s young core that includes shortstop Zach Neto and catcher Logan O’Hoppe. Schanuel said he believes he’s already getting better defensively under Washington’s tutelage, and his goal is to continue to grow and push his fellow teammates.

“It's fun because it's a little competition,” Schanuel said. “And we push each other, so that's the best part. We want to see each other get better. This is a young core. It's cool to see what everybody's doing and how we’ve … blossomed since we’ve been here.”