This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Nolan Gorman
Stats: 119 G, 464 PA, 59 R, 17 2B, 27 HR, 76 RBI, 7 SB, 2 CS, .236/.328/.478, 2.4 bWAR
Statcast: 16.5% barrel, 38.8% sweet spot, 112.3 max exit velocity, .345 wOBA, .358 xwOBA, 31.9% K, 11.4% BB
There was a lot of talk in spring training about how Gorman was instructed in the winter to alter his swing so he could hit the high fastball better and do damage with pitches that had eluded him. There’s no doubt he had more success with the fastball in 2023, slugging .579 on the heaters rather than .344 in 2022. The heat maps also show that he was able to get more barrels on pitches a little higher in the zone as well.
It was good to see a young player take the plan the club designed for him, implement it over the winter, and then find success with that approach the next season. However, the thump came, the consistency did not. He was hitting .272 with a .915 OPS at the end of May, then the bottom dropped out in June (.143 BA/.439 OPS). He rebounded in July, scuffled in August (in only 14 games as his back problems became problematic). He also hit the injured list in mid-September, ending his season quite abruptly.
Because he’s a young player with plenty of upside and has proven himself on the big stage, there’s a lot of trade rumors that circle around him due to the dire need that the Cardinals have for pitching. Over at his Birdy Work Substack (subscription required), Dayn Perry was making the argument back in July not to trade the young man. The arguments hold up still, because power in a package like Gorman’s, a package that can play second base with at least passable success, is a really, really valuable commodity.
Young, controllable, top-of-the-line pitching is really, really valuable as well. If the club goes the trade route and tries to find someone that will be under control for the next few years, Gorman may be the only way they can get such a pitcher. The back issues are a little concerning, though hopefully an offseason of rest and perhaps some strengthening exercises may make that more of a moot point. The strikeout rate is high, of course, but you can take that tradeoff if you are getting 30-40 home runs, right?
The Cardinals haven’t developed a real slugger in quite some time. Gorman turned 23 this season and has already two years (well, one and a partial) under his major league belt. I think it is safe to say that if the Cardinals do part with him, it’s going to be for a ridiculously good return.
What’s in store for 2024: The real strong odds have Gorman continuing to take steps toward realizing all his potential, batting in the middle of the lineup and wearing the Birds on the Bat all year long.