Wednesday, December 8

Cardinals prospect, Nolan Gorman’s “get early” work ethic, helps transition to second base

DENVER – The double that Nolan Gorman hit in the right-field corner in the third inning of the Futures Game on Sunday is just one reason the Cardinals are so excited about their shocking infield prospect.

The pitch was a 98 mph fastball with motion from Red Sox prospect Brayan Bello perfectly positioned at that hard-to-reach spot in the bottom inside corner of the strike zone. And Gorman jumped on him like he was a center-cut meatball, No. 98 in the black.

“In terms of hitting mechanics, he’s a beast,” said Frank Neville, who has scouted and ranked prospects for Sporting News for several years, after watching Gorman do a hitting practice demo that morning.

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Gorman hit 11 home runs in 43 games for Double-A Springfield to start this season, before the Cardinals raised him to Triple-A Memphis. Hitting prowess is well known, but it’s your job as a glove that might decide how fast you get to the majors.

Gorman was drafted as third baseman, and that’s where the Cardinals saw him fit into their future. But, as you know, this offseason they traded for perennial All-Star third baseman and Gold Glove Nolan Arenado. Gorman not only lost his future position with the major league club, but he was no longer even the most prominent Nolan in the organization.

Undaunted, Gorman went to work learning a new position: second base.

“The best thing I did for my development at second base was go to spring training a week and a half early to work with Jose Oquendo at the complex,” Gorman told Sporting News in a telephone interview last week. . “Paul De Jong was there, and so was Goldy (Paul Goldschmidt). Arenado was there too. Having an advantage in that aspect, being able to work with those guys one on one was really important to me. “

Changing positions is not a new idea for Gorman. He was selected as third baseman, but like most elite athletes, he had played a lot as a shortstop as a child. He would play third for his high school team and shortstop in the summers. He played a bit of second base as a kid. He had even played in the outfield, when he was on a team where most of the kids were a couple of years older. They wanted him because he could hit, but the older infielders managed to maintain their defensive positions.

So yes, finding a new position was not a new concept. However, it remains a challenge.

“I have really enjoyed it. It’s definitely different, ”Gorman said. “There’s a lot more at stake, so you have to know where you should be on certain plays. It was fun. The double plays, converting other infielders, running backs stealing, scoring … it’s all just fun. You have a lot more time in the middle to get to the balls, so there are balls that I’m chasing, diving … stopping, then getting up and throwing. It’s great.”

Playing on the left side of the infield, at third, or at shortstop, most pitches go with a natural flow of momentum for a right-handed pitcher. That’s why you’ll never see left-handed pitchers in those positions (outside of minor league softball or the beer league, maybe). But second, on the right side of the infield, that dynamic changes. Suddenly, you are turning your body to get the ball to second base in any way possible. That’s a completely different footwork, completely different throwing motions. It is a new challenge.

Speaking about the defensive adjustment with Gorman, one word kept popping up: Reps. Hundreds and hundreds of them, in spring training and now.

“I think the way we did it, with Oquendo and Stubby (Clapp) during MLB camp, it helped a lot. I did a lot of reps there, ”Gorman said. “Before the day, for early work during spring training, I was always out there getting my reps, whether it’s two plays or catching the ball at second base for a double play. I did hundreds of reps for that. It made me comfortable. At the end of Major League Baseball camp, and I think Oquendo would say the same thing, we felt like he was ready to play second base in a live game. I ended up doing that in spring training, which was fun. “

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The Cardinals haven’t moved him exclusively to second base. Not yet, at least. At Springfield, he started 16 games at second and 23 at third. At Memphis, it’s five at second and four at third. In the Futures Game, he was the starting third baseman.

“The first game I got back there after playing second base for quite a few games in a row, my first pitches in warm-ups were a little short, and I thought, ‘Man, this is longer than I remember,'” he said. he said with a laugh.

For those who know Gorman, it’s not surprising that he reported to spring training early to begin learning his new position. Arriving early is his thing. When the Cardinals selected him with the 19th pick of the 2018 MLB Draft, he became the first player born in the 2000s (May 10, 2000) to be selected.

Going back a bit more, getting up early to work out with friend Matthew Liberatore in suburban Phoenix wasn’t enough, so the duo decided to start even earlier.

“When we were 12 or 13, we would wake up when the sun came up and we would exercise at 6:30,” Gorman said. “We were cycling out of his house when the sun had just risen.”

Liberatore, of course, is also a Cardinals prospect. And he was the starting pitcher in the Futures Game for the NL team, so of course I had to ask him about these bike rides.

We are both perfectionists when it comes to our development and mastering the art of what we do, ”Liberatore said. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve, and that walk was the icing on the cake for our morning workouts. What else can we do to promote our development? We both had parents willing to drive to and from whatever training we wanted to go to, but we just took it on ourselves. ”

Liberatore, who is about six months older than Gorman, was picked three spots ahead of his friend in that 2018 draft, by the Rays. The Cardinals traded him in the deal that sent Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay. It is appropriate that you can continue your development together.

“There were a lot of things like that,” Gorman said, “where we kept pushing each other to improve, in any way we could, from a very young age.”

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