This time of year, MLB Pipeline always writes up their top ten prospects lists at each position. Where is St. Louis Cardinals’ prospect Nolan Gorman ranked?
The St. Louis Cardinals refreshed the upper tier of their farm system by trading for Rays prospect, Matthew Liberatore. Liberatore joined the Cardinals as the number three prospect in the system behind one of his friends, Nolan Gorman.
Gorman came out of the gates flying after being drafted by the Cardinals at the ripe age of just 18. In his first season, he hit 17 combined homers in just 63 games against leagues where he was between two and four years younger than all of his opponents.
We knew Gorman would struggle at some point and that he couldn’t be this good in the Minors forever, and in his second season, he saw some adversity but it was an overall productive year for him.
Gorman came out of the gates hot again with an OPS over 1.000 in April but then sputtered for just a .766 OPS in May and was even worse in June (.532 OPS). In what was a clearly pre-planned promotion, Gorman was pushed to High-A Palm Beach from Low-A Peoria.
This was a gutsy move by the Cardinals given that Palm Beach is in a pitcher-friendly league and a young player can lose confidence and get buried quickly. Gorman may not have thrived, but he definitely held his own.
In 232 at-bats, Gorman had a .255/.306/.426 slash line which doesn’t jump off the page, but it is an improvement from what he did in his final month at Low-A Peoria. The important thing to pick out from this is that Gorman showed a more advanced approach at the plate the longer he stayed at Palm Beach. That’s what that level forces players to do.
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At Peoria, pitchers couldn’t place their pitches well enough to get Gorman to chase, so they just walked him. That led to his inflated .344 OBP. I say inflated because Gorman was still striking out 28% of the time at Peoria in 2019.
In his first month with Palm Beach, Gorman had a .298 OBP and had a 30/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That is a 28.8% strikeout percentage and a 2.8 walk percentage. He was swinging a ton and not working counts.
In Gorman’s final month at Palm Beach, he had a 32/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That isn’t much, but it’s an improvement. His strikeout rate stayed high at 34.7%, but his walk rate jumped up to 7.4%. Still not great, but the .330 OBP looks better for sure. His batting average in the final month fell from .277 to .259. This screams that Gorman was trying to work counts and the stats back that up.
Back to the point, Gorman improved, and while he fell from the 20s to the 40s on mlb.com’s top 100 prospect lists, he was named the #4 third base prospect by MLB Pipeline.
This speaks back to the ceiling that Nolan Gorman has. There are a lot of great players on this list, and Gorman deserves his place where he is.
Gorman will play the 2020 season as a 20-year-old but he is a guy on the rise who deserves the #2 spot on the Cardinals’ own prospects list.
As far as where Gorman will start the 2020 season, that’s still up in the air. If Gorman was following Dylan Carlson‘s footsteps exactly, he would start at AA. However, Gorman didn’t show quite the same advanced approach that Carlson did at Palm Beach, even though their overall numbers are relatively similar.
I would guess Gorman starts at Palm Beach and moves up to AA by the end of the season. This would keep him in line to potentially break into the MLB towards the end of 2021 (when he would still be 21) or the beginning of 2022.
Gorman needs more work for sure and there is no reason to rush him. The Cardinals may be exploring trades for Gorman as the #4 third baseman and a top 50 prospect in baseball is a valuable asset, but either way, Gorman is a great player to have and it will be exciting to watch his path.