Schanuel back in 'natural habitat' at the plate

May 6th, 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.

CLEVELAND -- As Angels rookie first baseman described his approach to hitting and how he has to stay true to himself at the plate, he casually dropped a one-liner that stood out.

“A giraffe’s not going to eat meat,” Schanuel said. “You don’t want to take it out of its natural habitat.”

Schanuel explained that what he was trying to say is he has to stick to what makes him special as a hitter and not do too much, like try to hit for power. He said he got away from that mentality early in the season but has been back on track over the last two weeks. But then, in a funny moment, he admitted the next day that a friend from back home in Florida dared him to use giraffe in a quote and somehow Schanuel made it work.

“I need to stick to what I know best and what I do best,” Schanuel said. “And that's singles up the middle, opposite approach. And if they hang me one and I'm a little early and I get it, I get it. So that’s been the biggest difference from my first 40 at-bats.”

Schanuel, 22, turned heads last season when he was called up to the Majors just 40 days after being selected with the No. 11 overall Draft pick out of Florida Atlantic University. He held his own in the Majors, reaching base safely in all 29 games he played and slashed .275/.403/.330 with a homer, three doubles and six RBIs.

Schanuel was an on-base machine as the club’s leadoff hitter down the stretch but lacked power. He came into this season trying to unlock more, but it caused him to get away from who he is as a hitter.

He started out the year in a 4-for-43 (.093) slump with one homer and five RBIs through his first 14 games before he had a sit-down with hitting coach Johnny Washington and offensive coordinator Tim Laker.

“I was pulling off the ball, trying to hit homers,” Schanuel said. “I kind of got ahead of myself earlier in the year doing something I’m not used to doing. J-Wash and Laker sat me down and said, ‘Hey, this is what you did last year and this way you did great.’ So I’m trying to get back to that.”

Since mid-April, Schanuel has looked more like the hitter he was and has also returned to the leadoff role over the last five games with Mike Trout out with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Schanuel is hitting .339 with two homers, a double and six RBIs in his last 15 games.

Angels manager Ron Washington has noticed a difference and said he was happy to hear that Schanuel has listened to the advice from the hitting coaches and has gotten back to an approach that works for him.

“I think that was a great assessment of himself,” Washington said. “Because he was doing that. And it's nice to see that he's settled down. I just hope he can sustain this through the rest of the year.”

Schanuel made an impact in Friday’s 6-0 win over the Guardians, as he saw 11 pitches in his first at-bat against right-hander Tanner Bibee to start the game and then connected on a solo homer in the third inning. Schanuel enjoys his role as leadoff hitter and understands what it entails.

“What I intend to do every first at-bat is see as many pitches as possible,” Schanuel said. “Getting up to 11 pitches in the first at-bat, the pitcher gets a little flustered. Even though it didn’t go my way, I still walked away from that at-bat with some pride, and it definitely set up the rest of the team and me for the rest of the game.”