Every year there are rookies everyone is looking forward to seeing make their major league debut. Some of these top prospects immediately live up to expectations. Julio Rodriguez, for example, is one of those prospects who have lived up to the hype.
Other top prospects, however, don’t immediately hit the ground running upon their arrival in the majors. Sometimes they need a little more seasoning before they really start to produce for their team.
Looking the Part
Gorman was one of the top power-hitting high school players in the country ahead of the 2018 draft. When he was still on the board when the Cardinals were selecting in the 19th spot, St. Louis jumped at the chance to add him to their organization. After signing, Gorman immediately showed everyone why the Cardinals drafted him as he hit 17 home runs in 63 combined games at Rookie ball and Class A.
The rankings services took note of Gorman’s production. Baseball America ranked Gorman 75th on its prospect list ahead of the 2019 season while MLB.com had him ranked 61st and Baseball Prospectus 34th. In 2019 and 2021, Gorman combined to hit 40 home runs and drive in 137 runs in 244 games. By the start of the 2022 season, Gorman appeared in two Futures Games and was ranked 34th by Baseball America, 33rd by MLB.com, and 28th by Baseball Prospectus.
In 2022, Gorman would finally get his chance to show what he could do on the major league level.
While Gorman was smashing home runs, he also was displaying a knack for striking out. In his debut professional season, he had a 27.7% strikeout rate that climbed to 29.7% in 2019. Gorman appeared to turn a corner in that area in 2021 as his strikeout rate fell to 21.2%. Additionally, Gorman has never been able to hit for a high average, posting a career average of .270 in 350 minor league games.
Still only 22, Gorman started the 2022 season at Triple-A Memphis. While there, everything he did well and didn’t do well was on display. He hit 16 homers and drove in 26 runs in 43 total games. But he also had 69 strikeouts for a 36.7% strikeout rate.
Getting the Call
The Cardinals were obviously not too worried about Gorman’s strikeout rate as they added him to the major league roster and inserted him into the starting lineup on May 20. By the end of May, Gorman was looking like the front runner for NL Rookie of the Year as he was slashing .387/.472/.677 with two home runs and seven RBI in 10 games.
But then came June. The good news for Gorman was he hit four homers that month. The bad news is he slashed .211/.317/.437 with 30 strikeouts in 92 plate appearances. By the end of the month, his overall slash line had fallen to .254/.313/.449. And things would not get any better the rest of the season for Gorman. By the end of the year, he had a .226/.300/.420 slash line with a 32.9% strikeout rate.
If there was one solid takeaway from 2022 was the fact that Gorman still had plenty of power as he finished the year with 14 homers and a 4.5% home run rate. Also, Gorman was trying to learn a new position with the Cardinals. A third baseman by trade, his path to the majors was blocked at third by Nolan Arenado. Gorman started to play some second base in the minors in 2021 and was still learning the position last year.
Rebounding in ’23
Instead of dwelling on what went wrong in 2022, Gorman has come out in 2023 and is proving he is closer to the top prospect people expected him to be than what he showed last year. Across the board, he is way above average in many of the hitting stats.
Through Friday, Gorman has 12 homers and 36 RBI in 40 games and is slashing .296/.386/.629. His strikeout rate has dropped to 24.2% while his walk rate, which was at 9% last year, sits at 12.4% to go with a 7.8% home run rate.
Gorman’s average EV is up from 89.2 mph to 90.2 mph and his hard-hit percentage has increased from 43.3% to 51% this season. He currently ranks third in the National League in homers, ninth in OBP, first in Slugging Percentage, and second in OPS.
Time to Add Him
I was a fan of Gorman last year. I already had him in my minor league system in one of my dynasty leagues and I went and traded for him in another league (but failed to add him in a third). Like many fantasy players, I was not happy with his overall performance last year, but his power was still there so I made sure to turn down all trade offers for him over the winter.
Right now, Gorman is not widely available in Yahoo leagues as he is rostered in 81% of leagues, he is still only rostered in 51.3% of ESPN leagues, though that is an increase of 17% in the last week. If you don’t have him, and if the other owner isn’t trying to command a king’s ransom for Gorman, I would go out and try to get him.
Gorman is going to continue to strikeout too much at times, but he has shown in the past the ability to cut down on his strikeouts just as he has done this season. Also, his left-handed swing is tailor-made to hit fly balls and take advantage of his raw power, leading to 30-35 homers per year from the second base position. He does have a tendency to pull the ball, but he has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields and I wouldn’t be surprised if his average hovers closer to the .280 to .290 range than the .230-.240 range.
If you can get him, do so.