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Nolan Schanuel Talks Hitting

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Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Nolan Schanuel got to the big leagues in a hurry, and he wasted little time proving himself once he arrived. Called up less than six weeks after being drafted 11th overall last summer by the Los Angeles Angels out of Florida Atlantic University, the left-handed swinging first baseman hit safely in each of his first 10 games. Moreover, he reached base in all 29 games he appeared in and finished with a .402 OBP. Indicative of his calling cards — plus plate discipline and quality bat-to-ball skills — he drew 20 walks and fanned just 19 times in 132 plate appearances.

The one knock on his game is he doesn’t hit for much power. Schanuel homered just twice after reaching pro ball — once each in Double-A and the majors — and while that profile isn’t expected to change markedly, he did leave the yard 19 times in his final collegiate season. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he also possesses the frame to become more of a long-ball threat as he further acclimates to big-league pitching. Just 22 years old (as of last month), he has plenty of time left to grow his game.

Schanuel talked hitting at the Angels’ Arizona spring training complex earlier this month.

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David Laurila: It’s not uncommon for modern day players to identify as hitting nerds. In your opinion, what constitutes a hitting nerd?

Nolan Schanuel: “There are so many ways you can put it. I think it’s somebody that studies not only their own swing, but also other people’s swings, seeing what works for them. Growing up, I looked into dozens of swings. Barry Bonds, Ichiro [Suzuki] — seeing what works for them and kind of trying to put it into mine. So, I would say that being a hitting nerd is studying other people and kind of inserting some of what they do into themselves.”

Laurila: You just named two hitters with very different swings. Were you ever trying to emulate either of them?

Schanuel: “I wouldn’t say emulate. I would say that I tried to pick out pieces of what they did really well. I didn’t really know my swing when I was first doing this, so putting things into it kind of made it what it is today.”

Laurila: What did you take from Ichiro?

Schanuel: “The higher handset is a little bit of Ichiro. He didn’t really have a very high one, but his hands in general — watching him work the bat with his hands, and also his tempo, I would say was a big influence on my swing. Watching the way he controlled the barrel was the biggest part.”

Laurila: Where are your hands?

Schanuel: “They’re way higher now. In high school, I had them a lot lower. It was kind of a self decision to do this; I thought it was better to get into my damage zone. There is [added movement to get to where I fire from], but it’s movement all in one motion. The moment I go down, I shoot out. I also do a leg kick, kind of floating in the air.”

Laurila: When did you make that change?

Schanuel: “My freshman year of college is when I really started unlocking what I am now.”

Laurila: How would you describe the hitter that was unlocked?

Schanuel: “I would say contact, a really good contact guy. A line drive hitter would be the best way I can describe it. I think more power is going to come, but being up early in the lineup, my job is to get on base for the guys behind me, the guys that can really provide the power.

“To me, hitting is all about timing and finding your rhythm. Seeing pitches… there is so much that goes into hitting that people don’t really think about. They think you see a white ball and you hit a white ball, but there are so many little things that go into it. Timing, as I said, plays an important role. Staying balanced plays an important role.”

Laurila: Good contact skills are obviously an asset, but they can also result in putting balls in play on pitcher’s pitches that you’d have been better off not swinging at. How do you approach that conundrum?

Schanuel: “Early in the spring it was a little hard getting back into it, but it’s about picking out your power points — where you want to do damage early — and letting that low-and-away strike go. You want to be disciplined with that, in hopes of getting something better later on. I mean, you get used to doing that. You play baseball for so many years, so it kind of just becomes your nature.”

Laurila: Circling back to watching hitters, who are those guys now?

Schanuel: “I watch everybody. I don’t really watch a lot online anymore, though. Now it’s more so in person. I mean, I get to watch the best baseball players in the world, and I can learn from their mistakes. I can learn from their successes. That’s why you want to go out there and learn every day.”

Laurila: Do you ever sit in the dugout and think, “That guy reminds me of myself at the plate?”

Schanuel: “No. I wouldn’t say like me. I would say some similarities, but not very… I mean, I have a unique swing. It’s different from everybody else’s. High handset. High load. Not a lot of people do that, but it works for me.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Jacob Berry, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Justice Bigbie, Cavan Biggio, Charlie Blackmon, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Will Brennan, Jay Bruce, Triston Casas, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Garrett Cooper, Gavin Cross, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Donnie Ecker, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Austin Hays, Nico Hoerner, Jackson Holliday, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Jacob Hurtubise, Tim Hyers, Connor Joe, Jace Jung, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Heston Kjerstad, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Royce Lewis, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Marcelo Mayer, Hunter Mense, Owen Miller, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Lars Nootbaar, Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino, Graham Pauley, Luke Raley, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Marcus Semien, Giancarlo Stanton, Spencer Steer, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Mark Trumbo, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Alex Verdugo, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Anthony Volpe, Joey Votto, Christian Walker, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Bobby Witt Jr. Mike Yastrzemski, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis.

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