Nolan Schanuel hopes to follow in the footsteps — literally — of Zach Neto.
Schanuel, who the Angels took with the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 2023 draft on Sunday, said he drew inspiration from Neto, the Angels’ first-round pick in 2022, in the way he swings the bat.
Schanuel also has an exaggerated leg kick. Schanuel, who is also from Florida, said he played with Neto in the summer before his freshman year at Florida Atlantic.
“I wouldn’t say he influenced me but it definitely made me more comfortable for what my swing is, especially how unorthodox it is and how different it is from other players,” said Schanuel, a first baseman. “Scouts were saying the same thing about his swing throughout college and he’s playing with flying colors. He’s insane. So it just shows that throughout my progression I could do the same thing.”
Neto, of course, went from Campbell University to the majors in nine months. Schanuel (pronounced SHAN-yew-EL) would love to do the same thing.
Tim McIlvaine, who took Neto with his first selection as Angels scouting director last year, said the similarities to Neto are a coincidence. He said they didn’t pick Schanuel to fit any sort of mold, but simply because they like what he does as a hitter.
“We looked at a ton of players, and in the end, Nolan did a lot of things that that we really liked, that we sought out to look for,” McIlvaine said. “He’s got power. He can hit. He knows his zone. He’s very patient. He doesn’t get himself out, rarely ever strikes out, took a lot of walks this year. A lot of extra base hits. He can hit the ball over the wall. He’s a good player. He’s a really good baseball mind.”
Schanuel, 21, hit .385 with 46 homers in his three-year career at Florida Atlantic. This season he led all of Division I in batting average (.447), on-base percentage (.615) and walks (71), on his way to winning the Conference USA Player of the Year Award.
Schanuel, who is listed at 6-4, 220 pounds, hit 19 homers and struck out 14 times during his junior year.
McIlvaine said they will start him at first base, but will also try him in the outfield at some point later this year.
One of the knocks against Schanuel is that he did not fare well last summer when playing with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League. McIlvaine said they talked to Schanuel about his performance, and came away convinced that he had made the proper adjustments.
“He’s better now,” McIlvaine said. “We watched him a lot last year, a lot this year. He proved beyond a doubt to us that he’s ready. He’ll do fine.”
Schanuel said another key to his improvement was that he was diagnosed with an astigmatism in his right eye last winter. He now wears a contact lens, and he said the difference in his vision has been dramatic.
“It was like the ball was not even in 3D, it was in 4D,” Schanuel said.
The slot value for the 11th pick is $5.25 million. McIlvaine did not indicate any concern about getting him signed. He said he expects him to start somewhere in Class-A.
Schanuel said he was “ready to fly out today” to get his pro career started. He was fully aware that Neto and Ben Joyce, the Angels’ third-round pick from last summer, have already been in the big leagues.
“I want to be right there with Zach Neto, Ben Joyce, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani,” he said. “I’m ready to be a teammate of theirs and get going. I’m stoked to call myself an Angel.”
The Angels did not have a pick in the second round, because they forfeited their selection when they signed left-hander Tyler Anderson.
Their next pick will be in the third round, the 79th overall pick, on Monday. The draft will continue through the 10th round on Monday, and conclude with the 20th round on Tuesday.
Jeff Fletcher has covered the Angels since 2013. Before that, he spent 11 years covering the Giants and A’s and working as a national baseball writer. Jeff is a Hall of Fame voter. In 2015, he was elected chairman of the Los Angeles chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.