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GM Meetings Notebook: Nolan Gorman Impresses Cardinals Brass With Play At Second Base



CARLSBAD, Calif.—Like most observers, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak was curious how Nolan Gorman’s transition to second base was going.

Gorman, the No. 40 prospect on the BA Top 100, had been a third baseman his whole life, but after the Cardinals acquired Nolan Arenado from the Rockies prior to last season, he began playing second base to give himself a path to playing time in St. Louis.

Mozeliak said at the general manager’s meetings on Wednesday that he spoke with Cardinals minor league infield coordinator Jose Oquendo about how Gorman’s development was coming along at second base. The answer surprised even Mozeliak.

“Speaking with Jose Oquendo, he’s very bullish on that transition,” Mozeliak said. “I asked him a simple question, like ‘Is he going to be an average second baseman? Maybe offensive-minded, slightly below?’ He just deadpanned me and said ‘He’ll be an above-average defensive second baseman.’ That was really encouraging to hear from someone who’s a really tough grader on infielders.”

Gorman, 21, started 77 of his 119 games at second base this season while rising to Triple-A. He also started all five of his games in the Arizona Fall League at second base before his AFL stint was cut short by hamstring tightness.

Gorman drew solid reviews for his defense at third base in previous years, but second base was a question mark given his physical, muscular build. He proved surehanded with only seven errors in his first year at the position and rapidly improved his footwork turning double plays. By the end of the year, even opposing scouts opined he would be able to play second base in the major leagues.

The Cardinals currently have Gold Glove winner Tommy Edman at second base, but with Gorman’s offensive potential, the position projected to be his as long as he showed he could handle it defensively.

With Gorman’s defense at the keystone drawing better than expected reviews, there is now a strong possibility his time will come sooner rather than later in St. Louis.

“It is good news you have people knocking on the door,” Mozeliak said. “It beats the alternative when you don’t have players ready to play. I’m kind of excited about this group that is close and ready to put their fingerprints in the big leagues.”

MACKENZIE GORE UPDATE

Padres general manager A.J. Preller said Wednesday that lefthander MacKenzie Gore has returned home to North Carolina to begin his offseason program.

Gore, the No. 84 prospect on the BA Top 100, made three starts in the Arizona Fall League and posted a 6.35 ERA with 15 hits allowed in 11.1 innings. He returned to San Diego after his final AFL start and spent a week working with new Padres pitching coach Ruben Niebla before returning to his home state.

“He just went back to North Carolina,” Preller said. “He’s going to get ready for his offseason and be ready to come into spring training. The message was ‘Come in ready to compete for a spot on the big league club’ and we’ll see where it goes.”

Gore, 22, spent the year trying to regain the form that once made him the top pitching prospect in baseball. He was sent back to extended spring training after a poor start at Triple-A El Paso and slowly worked his way back up the minors. He finished the season 1-3, 3.93 with 61 strikeouts and 28 walks in 50.1 innings and worked his way back up to Double-A.

“I think the last couple months were real positive,” Preller said. “Just the stuff and the ease of how he got to his fastball velocity and I think the secondary stuff that we saw, there’s days when you could say any of his pitches are plus.

“Right now he’ll show flashes of front-of-the-rotation stuff at different moments in every outing, but just getting that to where over the course of 85 to 100 pitches we’re seeing that more consistently, I think that’s the big focus for him as we go into next year.”

SHORTSTOP STILL THE SPOT FOR ONEIL CRUZ

When Oneil Cruz made his major league debut for the Pirates on Oct. 2, he became the tallest player to start a game at shortstop in major league history.

The 6-foot-7 Cruz started both of the Pirates final two games at shortstop and converted all five of his chances without an error. Whether he can stick at shortstop has long been a subject of debate given his unprecedented height at the position, but Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said the club has no plans to move him for now.

“He’ll come to spring training as a shortstop,” Cherington said. “We’ve talked to him and we’ve talked openly about the possibility of exposure to other positions at some point, just for his sake to give him more options. But we think, we believe, he can play short.”

Cruz, the No. 19 prospect on the BA Top 100, has long been something of a unicorn in scouting circles. His tools, actions and arm strength have long fit at shortstop and he maintained the quickness, coordination and agility to play the position even as he sprouted from 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-7.

While most assumed he would naturally move off the position as he got bigger, it never happened. Cruz started 275 of his 404 career games in the minors at shortstop and now will go to camp in contention to be the Pirates shortstop on Opening Day.

“He’s just a unique player,” Cherington said. “Obviously incredibly skilled. He can do some things on a baseball field that not many guys can. How hard he hits the ball relative to his contact rate, it’s an unusual combination. How fast he runs for the size he is, unusual combination. To be able to play shortstop with those other skills, just an unusual combination. So it’s hard to compare him to anyone. Just unusual, but he’s really talented and he had a really good year on and off the field.”

Mackenzie Gore (Photo By Matt Thomas San Diego Padres Getty Images)

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GERALDO PERDOMO’S QUIET RESURGENCE

With the D-backs on the cusp of a rebuild following a 52-110 season, the team is looking to identify the young players it can build with going forward.

After an awful first half of the season, shortstop Geraldo Perdomo re-established himself as potentially one of those players with a resurgent second half.

Perdomo, 22, hit .151 the first two months of the season with Double-A Amarillo before the D-backs demoted him to extended spring training. After a month spent revamping his swing, he returned on Aug. 5 and hit .329/.414/.521 the rest of the minor league season before finishing the year in the majors, where he recorded a hit in six of seven games.

“He went back and made legitimate swing changes and we saw the ball coming off,” D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said. “ … He was legitimately hitting the ball over 100 mph when he was hitting his best bolts. He wasn’t doing that the first half of the season.”

Perdomo has long drawn rave reviews for his defense at shortstop and has nearly as many walks (218) as strikeouts (230) in his minor league career. His exit velocities have traditionally been low, however, and that lack of impact in his bat finally caught up to him at the higher levels at the start of 2021.

With the swing changes he made in the second half of the season, however, Hazen said Perdomo has once again become part of the D-backs long-term plans.

“He’s always had a great eye and feel for the strike zone,” Hazen said, “so marrying those two things for us, and given the position and the way he plays it, we think he’s going to be a pretty good player.”

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