Halos rookie thinking baseball when head hits pillow

January 15th, 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.

ANAHEIM -- First baseman is not only the Angels’ No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, but he already got his first taste of the Majors and excelled as a September callup.

Schanuel, who was the No. 11 overall pick out of Florida Atlantic University in the 2023 MLB Draft in July, made it the big leagues only 40 days after he was drafted. But Schanuel, 21, proved he was ready for the quick promotion, as he posted a slash line of .275/.402/.330 with one home run and six RBIs in 29 games.

Schanuel reached base safely in all 29 games, which set a club record for a player to start a career and is tied for the third-longest streak to open a career in AL or NL history. Only Alvin Davis (47 games in 1984) and Truck Hannah (38 in 1918) had longer on-base streaks to open their careers. (Schanuel’s streak remains active.)

Schanuel recently participated in the annual MLB/MLBPA Rookie Program and said he thinks about his time in the Majors every day and is striving to improve in 2024.

“I don’t go to bed without thinking about it; I don’t wake up without thinking about it,” Schanuel said. “Everything I’ve done this offseason has reflected that with the incredible year that happened to me. And when I see friends and family, just nothing but praise from them, which is awesome, because they have my back.”

Schanuel played in just 22 games in the Minors before earning his promotion to the Majors, becoming the latest Angels player to make a fast ascent to the big leagues, joining shortstop Zach Neto and right-handers Chase Silseth, Sam Bachman, Ben Joyce and Victor Mederos.

Schanuel, who served as leadoff hitter because of his on-base prowess, said the key to his success was slowing the game down, which is usually the hardest adjustment for rookies. But the left-handed hitter made it look easy with his professional approach at the plate.

“It’s the same game, but it’s faster,” Schanuel said. “Pitches are moving a little bit more. Everybody is just better. And so it’s about little accomplishments and little steps and slowing myself down -- and just learning techniques on how to perform for the game and prepare for the game.”

Schanuel knows that he needs to bring more power as a first baseman. He had only four extra-base hits in 132 big league plate appearances and will have to improve on that to be a productive corner infielder. Schanuel is projected to be the club’s starting first baseman, but the Angels also claimed Alfonso Rivas on waivers from the Guardians in December and Brandon Drury can play some first base. The Angels could also look to add a veteran first baseman-type via free agency to serve as designated hitter to try to replace Shohei Ohtani’s production.

Schanuel said he has been lifting weights and hitting in the cages four times a week this offseason in an effort to get stronger and develop more power. His average exit velocity was 85.4 mph, below the MLB average of 89 mph, per Baseball Savant. Schanuel also said he has been working on his speed. He ranked in the 36th percentile in sprint speed.

“That’s what this offseason was about for me,” Schanuel said. “I got my time in the big leagues, so now it’s about what I need to work on. I need to work on getting faster and unlocking that power with a wood bat. Just little things like that. But my time in the big leagues taught me what I need to get better at.”

Schanuel said he enjoyed his experience at the Rookie Program and enjoyed hearing from current and former Major Leaguers about what it takes to stick in the big leagues. The players at the program also learn about such off-the-field things as nutrition, dealing with the media and handling finances.

“I’ve gotten extremely good feedback from the Rookie Program,” Schanuel said. “Just listening to current pro players and all that they’ve gone through and just learning from them. It’s been tremendous for me.”