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Breaking down Nolan Gorman’s rookie season

Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images

Big things were expected out of the Cardinals Nolan Gorman upon his callup to the big leagues. At the AAA level this season the former first round pick had a triple slash line of .308/.367/.677 to go along with 15 home runs, 12 walks and 50 strikeouts in 133 at bats. Although, his success has not translated to the majors yet as he has a triple slash of .236/.310/.433 with 13 homers, 25 walks and 88 strikeouts in 254 at bats. The strikeouts were expected because that is the type of player Gorman is, however, he has certainly fallen below what the Cardinals expected of him in the slugging department. Despite it being a small sample size, it is still important to evaluate his analytics to see if the rookie has been unlucky thus far or if this is a potential sign of things to come in the coming seasons.

The good

Gorman has certainly been an unlucky hitter to this point. His xBA of .248 falls into the 51st percentile and his xSLG of .494, which is .061 points higher than his actual slugging percentage falls into the 93rd percentile. His xwOBA of .352 which is .027 points higher than his actual wOBA ranks in the 84th percentile across the league. Gorman has also been making consistently hard contact with his average exit velocity of 89.6 miles per hour ranking in the 62nd percentile. Additionally, his hard-hit percentage, which is batted balls hit 95 miles per hour or more is at 43.4 percent, which is currently in the 70th percentile. On top of that his barrel percentage, which is batted balls with the perfect combination of launch angle and exit velocity, is 14.5% which is in the 6th highest percentile. Despite his plate discipline concerns Gorman does draw walks at an above average clip with a walk percentage of 8.9 percent which places in the 56th percentile.

Gorman has done a great job of keeping the ball in the air this season without popping it up much. His launch angle of 20 degrees is 7.9 degrees above league average whilst his flyball percentage of 38.6 percent is 15.6 percent above average. On the flipside his ground ball percentage of 26.5 percent is 18.4 percent below league average. His line drive percentage of 28.9 percent also sits 3.9 percentage above average. It is imperative for hitters to hit the ball with a higher launch angle as Gorman does. A hard-hit ball in the air is always going to carry a higher run value and xBA compared to a hard-hit ball on the ground.

Gorman has been somewhat unlucky in the home run department this season as his actual home run tally of 13 is below his xHR number of 15.3. He’s hit 9 no doubters this season which are homers that would be gone in every ballpark in baseball whilst he only has five doubters which are homers that would be out in 7 or fewer stadiums. For comparisons sake NL MVP favorite Paul Goldschmidt who had 33 home runs on the season only has 11 no doubt home runs.

The bad

Gorman brings a lot of swing and miss with him. His strikeout percentage of 31.3 percent is in the 4th lowest percentile. His whiff rate of 34.2 percent is in the 5th lowest percentile and his chase rate of 30.6 percent is 2.2 percent higher than league average. An additional problem with Gorman is he does not have pure bat to ball skills meaning when he chases more often than not, he is not putting the bat on the ball. His chase contact percentage of 47.2 percent is 11.1 percent below league average.

Gorman has been a very poor fielder at second base this season totaling negative eight outs above average which is in the second lowest percentile. Despite such a poor number the rookie does have to be cut some slack though as second base is a relatively new position to him.

The Cardinals have used Gorman largely as a platoon player as he has had 259 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers compared to 22 plate appearances against lefties this season in the majors. It is somewhat concerning that the organization does not trust him yet against left-handed pitchers and it is fair to question whether or not that is something that is going to continue into the 2023 season as well.

The verdict

Gorman is still an extremely young hitter who I still like very much. Ideally you would prefer that his chase and whiff rates were lower, although Gorman makes hard enough contact paired with his launch angle that you can overlook it. When I did a scouting report on Gorman earlier in the year, I projected him as a hitter who was going to hit 30+ homers at his peak paired with and hit somewhere around .245, which based on his early returns in the majors, looks exactly like the player we can expect Gorman to become. I think that is a player that every Cardinals fan will love to have over the next 10+ seasons.