SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Life in the Minors is all about trials and tribulations, something John Nogowski knows all too well after beginning the season in the Independent Leagues and finishing it in the prestigious Arizona Fall League."It's definitely been a journey," Nogowski, a first baseman in the Cardinals organization said.
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Life in the Minors is all about trials and tribulations, something John Nogowski knows all too well after beginning the season in the Independent Leagues and finishing it in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.
"It's definitely been a journey," Nogowski, a first baseman in the Cardinals organization said. "Just a blessing to get an opportunity. I think that's the biggest thing for guys in the Minor Leagues, to just get an opportunity."
The Athletics selected Nogowski in the 34th round (No. 1,032 overall) of the 2014 Draft, but he was released prior to the 2017 season, despite having slashed .273/.345/.402 across two levels in 2016.
The setback easily could have derailed Nogowski's career, but he wasn't ready to give up on baseball and still believed he was capable of playing at a high level.
"It was pretty high," Nogowski said of his confidence. "I had two really, really good years in High A in my first two years of pro ball. I knew I could hit and I knew I could play first and play the outfield."
So Nogowski opted for the Independent Leagues and signed on with the American Association's Sioux City Explorers.
Once there, it became clear why Nogowski had confidence in his ability to hit: The 24-year-old absolutely raked.
Over 34 games, he batted .402, led the league with a .482 on-base percentage and led his team in RBIs (28) and slugging percentage (.607).
In those 34 contests, Nogowski posted 17 multi-hit efforts, including a stretch of seven in a row.
The Cardinals took notice and signed him to a Minor League contract on June 27. As fate would have it, Nogowski was assigned to Double-A Springfield just as the Cardinals were getting set to face the Midland RockHounds -- Nogowski's old team.
"There was a little extra [motivation] there for sure," Nogowski said. "I think anytime someone's willing to give up on you and then you show them, 'I can do this,' much less against one of their top prospects, so that got me going a little bit."
If Nogowski's goal was to show the A's organization what it was missing, he didn't make them wait long.
In his third at-bat of the game, Nogowski homered off of Heath Fillmyer, the Athletics' No. 19 prospect.
"I was much more excited than I would have been [if it were any other team,]" Nogowski said. "But it's a business at the end of the day and I was happy to hit a home run."
Nogowski went on to hit .295/.378/.382 in 59 games with the Cardinals and is looking to build on that in the AFL.
"He has good discipline," Jobel Jimenez, the hitting coach for both the Springfield Cardinals and the Surprise Saguaros, said. "His walk percentage is higher than his strikeouts. He has good plate discipline, he's a line drive guy and at the end of the season he showed he has some pop."
Nogowski had 14 extra-base hits (two homers) with Springfield, but Jimenez believes he'll be able to develop a bit more power and Nogowski admitted it was something he was working on as well.
"He's got the potential to produce more runs and create more power and drive more balls," Jimenez said.
In addition to developing power, Nogowski also wants to develop as an outfielder and is trying to add left field to his skill set.
"If I can add another position, that's another opportunity for me to get in the lineup," Nogowski said.
And, as he's shown in the past, an opportunity is all Nogowski needs.
William Boor is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.