Nick Lorusso adding value as a Mets draft pick

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Teams seek players in the middle rounds of the MLB draft who can provide hidden or untapped value beyond initial projection. In recent years, the New York Mets have prioritized players who fit the mold, specifically from schools in the Power Five conferences. In the ninth round of the 2023 draft, they selected Nick Lorusso, a power-hitting corner infielder from the University of Maryland.

Lorusso arrived at Maryland as a fourth-year junior in 2022 and quickly became one of the leading hitters in the Big Ten Conference, showing no mercy to opposing pitching. He set the school’s RBI record that season before embarking on a historic senior year, during which he led the conference in home runs (26) and became the first Division I player since New Mexico State’s Billy Becher in 2003 to reach the century mark in runs batted in with 103.

“It was fantastic. I give all of the credit to my hitting coaches and my teammates,” Lorusso said. “The RBI numbers, I cannot do it myself, so it is important for me to give credit to everyone since it is a team effort. Matt Swope does a terrific job with developing hitters and how they go about their business. It is definitely very special to have something that I achieved throughout my life.”

Team success would supersede individual accolades for Lorusso despite attaining lofty benchmarks. The Terrapins won consecutive regular-season conference championships for the first time since the early 1970s. The school also made history that season when it captured its first Big Ten conference title since moving from the ACC a decade earlier.

“Winning a conference title was a goal of ours when I was at Maryland, and it was something we talked about accomplishing throughout the entire year and leading up to that point,” he said. “We had high expectations. The walk-off in Omaha at the Big Ten Tournament against Nebraska was one of my favorite memories, but being able to experience it with such a great group of guys and families around Maryland was special.”

The transition from college to the pro game took longer than anticipated for Lorusso, who hit just .169 in his pro debut in St. Lucie. Following an offseason of prep and recuperation, Lorusso rediscovered his stroke with Class A-Advanced Brooklyn. He hit .269/.359/.500 in his first 41 games with seven home runs and 26 RBIs. A recent move to the second slot in the batting order behind Nick Morabito helped pace the team’s offense and enable him to see more hittable pitches.

“Getting comfortable was the biggest adjustment for me,” Lorusso explains. “I came into this year knowing the coaches and how they go about the development process. I feel like I was able to settle down and be able to find my true self in my second pro season with Brooklyn. There was a gap between when our college season ended in June and my first time playing pro ball in August, so it took some time getting back into the swing of things.

“Morabito is special. He is the ultimate competitor and an incredible baseball player to hit behind at the top of the order. It makes my job easier when pitchers are focused on him on the basepaths, and I am able to get good pitches to hit and do some damage. Pitchers cannot be slow to the plate and have to throw more fastballs. Finding what works best against each pitcher is something I have taken into consideration.”

The Cyclones’ home field, Maimonides Park, is known for being an ideal location for pitchers because of its expansive centerfield and winds off of the ocean. Lorusso is an exception, though, as he finds success driving the ball with power to left and left-center field and has a .800 OPS while playing at home. The ballpark provides a welcoming environment for his skill set because of the left-field backdrop and the distance of 315 feet from home plate.

“The ballpark is a good place to hit and plays a factor in my success, but I try to focus on hitting the ball where it’s pitched,” Lorusso said. “Playing here in Brooklyn and getting comfortable every day gets you into a routine and a rhythm is definitely something huge for my hitting approach.”

Lorusso swings with a slight uppercut to his pull side and gets extension primarily to left field and in the gaps. Improved bat speed on the inner half of the plate on fastballs against right-handed pitching has resulted in a significantly lower strikeout rate in his second pro season despite pulling the ball with more frequency. A slight increase in walks is also a byproduct of the subtle tweaks made to his plate approach.

“I feel like the biggest thing for me is timing pitches and getting good swings,” Lorusso said. “Timing creates that when pulling the ball in the air and doing everything the right way in order to create that power and drive the ball. One emphasis of my plate approach this offseason was wanting to see more pitches, so I can get into more favorable counts, and I feel like it is paying off of late.”

While the bat has the potential to play anywhere on the diamond, the question remains regarding Lorusso’s long-term defensive position. The 23-year-old splits time between third base and first base, possessing a strong throwing arm from the hot corner to make routine plays, and works on tuning his accuracy and maintaining a consistent arm angle on that end of the diamond. Lorusso’s versatility at both positions provides flexibility in the interim and allows him to keep his bat in the lineup.

“The process starts with playing catch every day and working on different arm angles since you don’t know what kind of arm angles you are going to face in a game situation,” Lorusso explains. “I always feel like I have a good feel for the ball in terms of accuracy, going back to college where I was once a two-way player. I played third for most of my collegiate and professional career, and now I’m transitioning to first base and the key is finding a comfort level at both positions.”

The draft process overall is an inexact science. Players can either exceed projections based on draft slot or struggle to make an impact in professional baseball, facing lofty expectations. Selecting a player with a seasoned college resume, such as Lorusso, may bring a glimmer of certainty regarding reputation or beyond if he can replicate success at the pro level. The Maryland alum strives to make those ambitions a reality and provide the value the Mets envisioned he could add in the middle of his draft class.

“The Mets organization understands that I need to be myself in order to be successful in professional baseball. Moving as fast as possible is the goal for every player working through the minor league system,” Lorusso said. “I feel like if I just take care of the little things, do everything, and play the game the right way then everything will take of itself.”

Gershon Rabinowitz
Gershon Rabinowitz
Gershon Rabinowitz is a reporter based in the New York market who has covered a variety of sporting events including the MLB draft, the 2016 World Baseball Classic, and Big Ten Hockey at Madison Square Garden. In 2013, he co-founded the website Baseball Essential and currently specializes in coverage of professional baseball and hockey.

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