The St. Louis Cardinals: Let the Gorman-Pujols comparisons begin!
The 2019 St. Louis Cardinals are constructed to win now. In the ultra-competitive National League Central, the Cardinals have put together a solid lineup but the most exciting player in the organization isn’t even in St. Louis yet.
Nolan Gorman is the most talked about St. Louis Cardinals prospect in years. Drafted with the #18 overall pick last year, the young third baseman is considered a cornerstone to the team‘s future. With last week‘s contract extension of current third baseman Matt Carpenter many in the local media and fans alike pointed to the move as a sign that the new deal for Carp would be a bridge until young Gorman is ready.
But that future may not be that far off.
Gorman is following up an impressive spring training by tearing up opposing pitching at Low-A Peoria. Through the first ten games, Gorman is slugging a ridiculous .868 while popping 3 HRs. At this pace, he won‘t be spending too much more time with the Low-A Chiefs, but is it out of the realm of possibility Gorman could make his Busch Stadium sooner rather than later?
Our own J.T. Buchheit correctly pointed out in an earlier article that historically the Cardinals are extremely patient with talented young position players. And as it stands now, there doesn‘t seem to be a spot for Gorman in the big show with Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong and Matt Carpenter holding solid grips on their respective positions.
But there may just be a precedent for Gorman‘s meteoric rise in Cardinals history.
During the 2000 season, the Cardinals had a young third baseman tear through three levels of minor league ball. At each stop, the young clipper showed a rare penchant for plate disciple combined with raw power. When the season was over, Albert Pujols had belted 19 HRs, 41 doubles and driven in 96 RBIs. He did all this maintaining a nearly 1-1 strikeout to walk ratio (46 BB to 47Ks).
With 490 ABs during his minor league stops in 2000, Pujols homered once every 25.7 ABs.
Through his first 10 games in 2019, Gorman has homered once every 9.5 ABs. If we include his 2018 minor league numbers with 2019 to increase our sample size, Gorman is going yard once every 13 AB’s.
In 2000, Pujols had 154 hits with 43.5% of them going for extra bases.
So far in his early professional career, Gorman has 84 hits with 47.6% of them going for extra bases. In 2000, Pujols had an on-base percentage of .378. Gorman has a nearly identical career OBP of .388.
One place where Gorman‘s numbers are not comparable to a young Pujols is in his BB/K ratio. Gorman has struck out 87 times and walked 37 over his short career. Although he’s striking out twice as much as he’s drawing walks, Gorman tracking better than many of his contemporaries.
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Fernando Tatis, Jr., the prized young talent of the San Diego Padres, struck out 109 times and 141 times in the minors during 2018 and 2017, respectively. Against 33 and 77 walks each season, Tatis struck out 2 to 3 times more than he drew a walk.
Ronald Acuna, Jr. the Atlanta Braves star outfielder, struck out 144 times against 43 walks in his final season of minor league ball in 2017. Even though he was whiffing 3.34 times for every walk drawn, the Braves didn‘t hesitate to make him a part of the 2018 big league club.
And Acuna went on to win NL Rookie of the Year.
The point is the notable difference in plate patience between Pujols and Gorman is likely a product of his generation versus a reflection on his talent. Players today strikeout more. Period. The other parallels to the onetime Cardinal great still stand.
In the spring of 2001, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa got some stern advice from his veteran first baseman when finalizing his opening day roster. Mark McGwire told TLR it would be the “biggest mistake” of his career if he didn’t bring young Albert Pujols to St. Louis with the team. Of course, Pujols made the team and the rest is history.
If Gorman continues to tear through the Cardinals minor league system in 2019, it will be nearly impossible to keep him off the team next year. There’ll be 20 candles on his birthday cake next May and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t blowing those out somewhere in St. Louis should his current level of perfromance continue.