Cards' Nolan Gorman homers ... he's only 18

March 16th, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Eventually, Nolan Gorman is going to be known for something more than being the first player ever selected in baseball's June Draft who was born in the 2000s. On Saturday, he took an encouraging first step in pivoting the conversation toward more relevant topics.

The 18-year-old third baseman, a late addition to the lineup on Saturday, launched a solo homer off Kyle Barraclough in the seventh inning of the Cardinals' 8-5 comeback win over the Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

The home run, Gorman’s first hit of the spring in his first start, was one of several significant moments of an eventful game for the young prospect, who struck out three times -- twice against three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer -- and also made two errors at third base, both in the eighth inning.

The memories of the errors will fade. The trajectory of the home run, and the speed by which it left the park, are likely to stick in his mind longer. (As is the memory of finding out he was starting this game through Cardinals Twitter.)

"I just wanted to put a good swing on any pitch that I got," Gorman said. "I kind of knew [Barraclough] was going to come back with a changeup. I just stayed back and tried to drive it. Then we ended up fighting to come back. It was a fun game."

Gorman acknowledged he knew it was a homer soon after he made contact.

"It's one of the ones that you really don't feel it off the bat," said Gorman, who hit the first of back-to-back homers with Randy Arozarena. "But I saw the trajectory of it. I knew I hit it on the barrel, I knew I hit it pretty hard. I thought it had a pretty good chance."

The Cardinals filled their lineup card Saturday mostly with players who will not be making the Opening Day roster, so in that respect, Gorman, the 61st-best prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, fit in well. But still, it was significant that they picked the 18-year-old prospect to take the spot vacated by first baseman Rangel Ravelo, who was scratched with general soreness.

Gorman's big league ETA isn't until sometime around 2022, and he's only been in the organization nine months, after being drafted in the first round in 2018. It's really early to see him in this setting, even if it's just Spring Training.

"This speaks to his ability to pay attention, ever since he got in the organization," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "Every day that we created an experience for Nolan, Nolan took advantage of it. Every day is an experience for these guys. All of the feedback we get from guys in the [farm] system is he takes advantage of a better version of himself every day."

It's fair to assume that facing one of the best pitchers of this generation in his first two at-bats would probably qualify as taking advantage of an experience.

"Facing Max Scherzer and getting that caliber of a player to go up against, I think that elevates my game as well and see what it takes to be at this level," Gorman said.

One of the better subplots of Spring Training, which is mostly designed to give pitchers enough time to get their arms ready for the regular season, is that it provides fans invaluable up-close views of all of the players in the organization, not just those on the Major League roster.

For the fans who packed the stands on the visitors’ side of the ballpark Saturday, they were treated to a wide glimpse into the team’s future.

“This time last year, [Gorman] was in high school,” Shildt said. “This game was on MLB [Network], and he faced Scherzer. It was a good day for Nolan Gorman, and the Cardinals.”