ANAHEIM -- Despite being called up to the Majors just 40 days after being taken with the No. 11 overall selection in the Draft, Angels first baseman Nolan Schanuel has put together an impressive start to his career.
After setting a franchise record with a 10-game hitting streak to open his career, the leadoff man set another mark on Thursday by reaching base safely in his 16th straight game -- besting Darin Erstad's previous club record of 15 games, which Erstad accomplished in 1996.
Schanuel -- the Angels' top prospect per MLB Pipeline and the No. 100 prospect in all of baseball -- went 1-for-4 on Thursday against the Guardians, slapping a single to left field against former teammate Matt Moore in the seventh inning to set the mark. Schanuel was also intentionally walked to load the bases with one out in the ninth to set up a two-out, walk-off single from Randal Grichuk in a 3-2 win over the Guardians at Angel Stadium.
“That’s awesome, I didn’t even know,” Schanuel said. “I definitely didn’t think it’d be something I’d do this early. But everybody around me has been tremendous since the moment I got into the clubhouse. Coaches have been great, teammates have been great. It's truly a blessing.”
Schanuel, 21, has shown excellent plate discipline, especially given his inexperience in pro ball. He’s walked 13 times and struck out just 10 times in 75 plate appearances. But among his 17 hits, he has just one extra-base hit, a double down the right-field line on Aug. 28.
It’s led to a strange slash line of .283/.427/.300 in 16 games, as his on-base percentage is more than 100 points higher than his slugging percentage. But with a 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame, the Angels believe that Schanuel's power will come with time and more experience.
“If you watch him take BP, he’s hitting balls into the tunnels and over the batter’s eye,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “He’s got pop in there. It’s the way he’s being pitched. He’s just so patient at the plate.”
Schanuel, though, will need to start hitting the ball in the air more this year, as his average launch angle has been 2.7 degrees (league average is 12.2 degrees). He also hasn’t been blistering the baseball, as his hardest exit velocity has been 101.2 mph, which ranks in the bottom sixth percentile of the league, and he’s yet to record a barrel.
But it’s hard to find players with strike zone judgment and bat control like Schanuel -- and his size should allow him to eventually tap into some power. He has an unorthodox batting stance he developed during his time at Florida Atlantic University that sees him hold his hands high over his head before unleashing a big leg kick to get his bat through the zone.
Schanuel said he developed it to find more power in college and it worked, as he was perhaps the best hitter in college baseball as a junior this year, batting .447/.615/.868 with 19 homers, 18 doubles and 64 RBIs in 59 games.
“He’s going to learn the times where he can let it go,” Nevin said. “I hope he gets a couple in by the end of the season. I certainly think he's gonna hit home runs in this league, or at least have gap-to-gap power. But what he’s doing, I don’t care how many at-bats you’ve had, I’ve never seen a player come in this early and slow things down the way he does at the plate.”
Schanuel remains modest about his production so far, as he noted he’s still getting more comfortable each day. But he credited the Angels' coaching staff for working with him and his teammates for giving him advice.
“At first, I wouldn’t say I was uncomfortable, but I just wasn’t quite feeling like myself,” Schanuel said. “But as the days go on and I get more and more comfortable, I'm starting to feel my feet hit the ground again. Every time I get up to the plate, I’m trying to get on base for somebody behind me and do the little things.”
Schanuel will get his chance down the stretch to audition for a bigger role next season, and Nevin has enjoyed watching the young phenom develop and show off his keen eye at the plate.
“He really knows the zone,” Nevin said. “When he comes down the dugout and stops and tells me that ball was a ball outside or two inches outside and you look at it, it's a ball outside one or two inches out. He's on it every time.”