In rather stunning news, the Angels are promoting first baseman Nolan Schanuel to the Majors less than six weeks after selecting him with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2023 draft, reports Peter Gammons. It’s a rare and extremely aggressive promotion as the Halos, whose all-in push at the deadline has yielded underwhelming results thus far, try to bolster the lineup and keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive in Shohei Ohtani’s final season of club control. Schanuel has played in 21 minor league games (topping out at the Double-A level) and batted a combined .370/.510/.493 with 21 walks and just 10 strikeouts in 96 plate appearances. His promotion is now official.
Schanuel, 21, was regarded as the most MLB-ready bat in the draft, although a promotion to the big leagues in mid-August shatters even the most aggressive timetables pundits might’ve put on his potential ascension. The 6’4″ first baseman posted borderline farcical numbers at Florida Atlantic University, batting .386/.516/.698 in his college career — including a preposterous .447/.615/.868 slash in 289 plate appearances this past season. Schanuel’s bat-to-ball skills were unparalleled in this year’s draft class; he struck out in just seven percent of his college plate appearances and drew 71 walks against 14 strikeouts in 2023 (24.6% walk rate, 4.8% strikeout rate).
Impressive as Schanuel’s college and minor league numbers are, it’s still a move lacking in recent precedent. The White Sox fast-tracked lefty Garrett Crochet to the Majors in Sept. 2020, just months after drafting him, but that was in part due to the lack of a minor league season. Even that aggressive promotion came after Crochet had roughly three months to work with the team’s player development staff at their alternate training site. Looking even further back, right-hander Mike Leake skipped the minor leagues entirely after being selected with the No. 8 overall pick in 2009, though his debut came on Opening Day the following season. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper tweets that among position players, Schanuel’s promotion just 40 days after being drafted is the fastest rise to the Majors since Toronto’s Brian Milner back in 1978. Milner, promoted to the Majors just 17 days after being drafted, played in only two Major League games.
The Angels have made a habit of being quite aggressive in fast-tracking their prospects in recent years. Shortstop Zach Neto debuted earlier this season less than one year after going in the first round of the 2022 draft. Last year’s second-round pick, Ben Joyce, has already debuted as well. Lefty Reid Detmers, selected 10th overall in 2020, made his debut on Aug. 1, 2021. Righty Chase Silseth was an 11th round pick in 2021 and in the Majors by May of 2022. None of those quite match this level of aggression, but the Angels’ ultra-aggressive trajectory with Schanuel is on-brand for the organization.
The timing of today’s promotion likely isn’t coincidental. Today marks the first day that prospects can be promoted to the Majors and fall just shy of the requisite service to exhaust their rookie eligibility. So long as Schanuel (or anyone else promoted today) accrues fewer than 131 at-bats down the stretch, they’ll retain their rookie eligibility for the 2024 season. With the new prospect promotion incentives in the collective bargaining agreement, that’s a key status for teams to preserve; a top-100 prospect who wins Rookie of the Year can garner his team an additional pick in the following season’s draft.
Ultimately, the amount of control the Angels have over Schanuel will depend on multiple factors. Today’s promotion doesn’t necessarily cost them a year of club control, as he could well have earned a full year in 2024 anyhow. As it stands, he’s controllable through at least the 2029 season, although that path to free agency could be pushed back if Schanuel struggles in the big leagues and is eventually optioned back to the minors. For now, however, he’ll get the opportunity to show that his polished bat is ready for the challenges he’ll encounter at the game’s top level, while the Angels will take this opportunity to further demonstrate their commitment to fielding a competitive club to Ohtani as he nears free agency.