Nolan Gorman should be the Cardinals everyday second baseman

Nolan Gorman has shown drastic improvement on both the offensive side and defensive side of the game this year. However, he still finds himself missing in certain lineups. He deserves to play every day.
Colorado Rockies v St. Louis Cardinals
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Let's flash back to February 1st, 2021. The St. Louis Cardinals had just traded for a perennial All-Star third baseman in Nolan Arenado, and the outlook for the upcoming major league season seemed bright. Additionally, a top prospect by the name of Nolan Gorman was making the transition to second base from third base. Management found his bat so valuable that they moved him to another position to ensure he could find playing time.

We now come to August 27th, 2023. Nolan Gorman has been in the majors for nearly two years now. He has faced some challenges and adjustments in the majors, but he has shown improvement in every aspect of his game since his promotion in 2022. However, you'll be hard-pressed to find Gorman starting every game of the year, excluding scheduled off days. He is still absent from the starting lineup in games against left-handed pitchers at times. Why is this the case?

Batted Ball Stats

While Nolan Gorman's 2022 stats were less than ideal for a top prospect, he did show some signs of progress and success. He ended the year with a slash line of .226/.300/.421 for an OPS+ of 105. In 313 plate appearances, he bopped 14 home runs, struck out 103 times, and walked 28 times. This year, Gorman is slashing .238/.324/.482 for an OPS+ of 118 in 410 plate appearances. He has hit 24 home runs, has struck out 130 times, and has walked 44 times.

On a deeper level, Gorman's batted ball statistics left a little to be desired last year. His 43.3% hard-hit rate would have put him between Leody Taveras of the Rangers and behind Edouard Julien of the Twins if he had had enough at-bats to qualify. His 91.1 MPH average exit velocity placed him 57th overall, above Max Muncy and just below Bryan Reynolds. Gorman's 31.1 out-of-zone swing percentage would have been the 59th highest out of 182 qualified batters. For a prospect who was known for tearing the leather off of the ball, his first go around in the majors didn't quite prove that.

It is well documented that Gorman needed to adjust to MLB pitching in two ways: first, sit on high fastballs, and second, swing on off-speed and breaking pitches, especially the ones in the middle of the zone. Against fastballs in 2022, the 23-year-old lefty hit .195 and slugged only .351. When he saw breaking balls, Nolan had a batting average of .257 and a slugging percentage of .486. Against offspeed pitches, Gorman batted .273 and slugged .527. It was very clear after 2022 that pitchers would throw him fastballs up and try to deceive him with breaking balls down and away.

The first clip (courtesy of Baseball Savant) is from early 2022. You can see how Goman chases a high fastball from Zach Greinke. The fastball is clearly out of the zone, but Nolan does not lay off of it. The second video is from this season when the Cardinals went into Cleveland. Emmanuel Clase, one of the best relievers in the game, throws a high heater. Gorman lays off of it well, allowing the at-bat to be extended. While Nolan Gorman hasn't perfected his fastball approach, he sure has improved it. According to Baseball Savant's pitch-type run value-added, Gorman went from a -1 run value last year against four-seamers to a +6 run value this year against the same pitch. While his whiff numbers have increased slightly (35.9% in 2022 to 37% in 2023), he has been more selective with his swings. Additionally, his hard hit % against fastballs has increased (50.0% in 2022 to 60.1% in 2023).