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Gorman's Promotion To Peoria A Strong Sign For Cards

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Nolan Gorman (Photo courtesy of Danny Parker)

The Cardinals announced on Wednesday that their 2018 first-round pick Nolan Gorman has been promoted to low Class A Peoria.

The news seems somewhat innocuous. Gorman was hitting .343/.438/.664 for Rookie-level Johnson City at the time of the promotion. He was fifth in the Appalachian League in batting and second in home runs (11), so it can fairly be said that Gorman may be too advanced for the Appy League. He was considered one of the best high school hitters in the draft class coming into the draft, so his initial 36 pro games has just confirmed what amateur scouts saw.

But the Cardinals decision to send him to Peoria instead of short-season State College is what makes the promotion notable. It’s not all that uncommon for a first-round high school hitter to make it to the New York-Penn League or the Northwest League in their debut seasons. Making it to low Class A, even for a few at-bats, is much less common for first-year high school draftees.

In fact, Gorman will become only the seventh prep first round pick to make it to low Class A in his draft year in the past decade. Marlins outfielder Connor Scott joined low Class A Greensboro yesterday, making Gorman the second high school draftee to make a low Class A appearances this year. But Scott hit .223/.319/.311 for the Rookie-level GCL Marlins, so he didn't exactly mash his way to the South Atlantic League, while Gorman was one of the best hitters in the Appy League.

Twins shortstop Royce Lewis, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, made it to Cedar Rapids last season. Now he’s a Top 10 Prospect in baseball. Before him, you have to go back to Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford, who made it to low Class A Lakewood in 2013. Crawford has since been a Top 20 Prospect four different times and was the Phillies’ everyday shortstop when healthy earlier this season.

White Sox 2012 first-round pick Courtney Hawkins is the cautionary tale of this group. The White Sox promoted him to Kannapolis for 16 games that year and then even bumped him up to high Class A Winston-Salem for a five-game cameo at the end of the 2012 season. Hawkins hit .178 for Winston-Salem the next season, as he proved to be over his head as one of the youngest hitters in the league. He never made it to Triple-A before being released this spring.

But that same year as Hawkins, Athletics shortstop Addison Russell also made it to low Class A Burlington for 16 games. He ended up ranking as high as No. 3 on the Top 100 in 2015 and has been the Cubs starting shortstop for the past four seasons.

The only other example over the past decade of a high school draftee making it to low Class A in their draft year is the best example. Angels outfielder Mike Trout got a five-game call-up to low Class A Cedar Rapids in 2009 to finish up his draft year. Two years later he was in the big leagues on his way to being the best player in baseball.

Getting to low Class A as a recent draftee doesn’t guarantee success for Gorman, but it does provide more information than one might expect at first glance. Teams decisions on when to promote or hold back players offers subtle hints of evaluations that they may not be willing to announce publicly. In Gorman’s case, the promotion is a strong sign that the Cardinals truly believe in his bat.

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2018 Appalachian League Top 20 MLB Prospects

While performance is taken into consideration, tools and future projections by scouts are paramount.

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