Lars Nootbaar Takes Flight With New Swing Mentality
With a name that always gets a second glance and is fit for loud cheers, outfielder Lars Nootbaar showed in spring he had a swing worth a longer look for the noise it could make.
The 23-year-old lefthanded hitter vaulted on to the Cardinals' short list of rising prospects and, by August, into being a welcome “presence” in St. Louis, according to manager Mike Shildt.
The swift rise began when Nootbaar capitalized on spring’s improvised schedule to showcase the reworking of his swing the previous summer.
Drafted out of Southern California in the eighth round in 2018, Nootbaar had a strong .349 on-base percentage and played at three levels in 2019. But his slugging percentage needed to come up. He hit just nine home runs through 610 pro at-bats.
In his next 192, including 56 in the majors, he doubled his career total.
“He’s been able to do it at the big league level,” Shildt said. “Jim Edmonds comes to mind. Jimmy, in his minor league career, was a guy who learned to hit, use the whole field. And once you learn your nice stroke, then all of sudden you start to (develop power).
"Matt Carpenter—nice strike, good strike-zone discipline, trusting what he could do—and (he) started to drive the ball. I think the same thing with Lars.”
When spring 2020 was shuttered, Nootbaar decided to strip his swing down to “scratch.” In his drills, he tested out new bats, worked on body positioning and also focused on "swinging harder" and "keeping that mentality."
It was a leap for a hitter allergic to strikeouts to trust his pitch recognition and coordination to make that same consistent contact—just louder.
He took that into the Cardinals’ hitting lab camps and his first invitation to big league spring training followed.
The limited official games this spring meant the Cardinals needed b-games for pitchers like Jack Flaherty to get innings, and those games needed fielders. Instead of getting occasional Grapefruit League at-bats, Nootbaar played full games—in front of big league staff.
Nootbaar took advantage.
Coach Willie McGee referred to the jolt coming off Nootbaar's bat put him in conversation for promotions and moved him up the depth chart. Power carries.
And his already has a nickname. Exclaimed Shildt: “Noot boom.”
— After a staff reduction during the pandemic that led to the dismissal of many former players who had served in special assignment or advisory roles, the Cardinals rehired Jason Isringhausen and Ryan Ludwick to serve as roving coaches and mentors in the minor league system. Isringhausen, the club’s all-time saves leader, returns to the role he had. Ludwick, an all-star in 2008, will see his responsibilities with hitters at every level expand.
— With 11 homers in 100 at-bats during July, including two multi-homer games in the month’s final week, slugger Luken Baker had the pace to surpass the Double-A Springfield club’s single-season record before going on the injured list. Baker’s 23 homers in 78 games tied the totals from Colby Rasmus and the late Oscar Taveras and trailed Matt Adams’ record 32.