A longshot to say the least, John Nogowski is proving his worth as a legitimate professional ball player.

Obviously, minor league coverage revolves around a select few. Each organization has their “top” prospects, players who presumably will become the next big thing. For the most part, these men are higher draft picks, falling somewhere in the top 8 rounds.

Within the Cardinals organization, we constantly hear about such players. Jack Flaherty, Delvin Perez, Luke Weaver, and Alex Reyes usually capture the attention of most fans and analysts. The list is longer than that, but the point is clear. Few names get the spotlight, despite the myriad of prospects that play ever day throughout different levels of the Cardinals organization.

As such, I find it rewarding to dig out some lesser known names, some players who are defying the odds on a regular basis. Last year, it was Dylan Tice a 36th round pick who was tearing it up. This year, it is a very similar case, a player from deep in the 40 round players draft.

Enter John Nogowski. If you are anything like me, you’ve never heard this name. After all, how could you have?

Who is John Nogowski?

Nogowski played his college ball at the powerhouse of Florida State University, playing first-base and leading a high octane offensive force. After three solid years, the Oakland Athletics selected him in the 34th round of the 2014 draft.

From there, Nogowski played 3 respectable seasons in the A’s organization, striking out only 114 times over three full seasons of ball. In his last season for Oakland, Nogowski slashed .285/.354/.410. In that last season, too, Nogowski drastically upped his power numbers, hitting 8 home runs in 288 at-bats. Compared to the 6 he had hit up until that year, this was encouraging.

Despite such improvement, Nogowski still lacked the power of an elite, considerable first base prospect. As such, he failed to make a squad in the organization leading up to the 2017 season.

Instead of quitting right there, as many college prospects might after three years of valiant effort, Nogowski kept grinding. In fact, he played in the American Association, an independent baseball league here in the United States. Taking this opportunity in stride, he played well and it paid off.

As a result of his performances in both the Minor Leagues and the American Association, the Cardinals decided to sign Nogowski. An extremely low risk move, he has done nothing but prove himself since that point.

Within the Cardinals organization, Nogowski went straight to AA Springfield, where he has started 46 games. Over that span, he has played his best ball yet.

Success at AA Springfield

He is currently slashing .311/.402/.422, significantly better than his time in Oakland. To go along with that line, he has hit 12 doubles 2 home runs, and driven in 17 runs. Still not a dynamic run producer, he has certainly been a steady, solid force at the plate.

Perhaps most impressive is his ability to stay away from strikeouts. Over 161 at-bats, Nogowski has a k% of 11%. According to Fangraphs, such a rate is nearly as good as it gets at the big league level. While it may seem like a small feat, such a statistic says a lot. Nogowski is a pure hitter, with phenomenal hand-eye coordination and approach. He shows tremendous polish and consistency for a 34th rounder.

Unfortunately, Nogowski’s playstyle starkly contrasts with his position. As a first baseman, such a high-contact low-power combination is not exactly ideal. Especially in an era driven by the three true outcomes, Nogowski just simply does not drive enough balls in the air to be seriously considered a legitimate prospect.

With that being said, however, there is certainly time to improve. If Nogowski has proved anything thus far, it is grit. With his mindset and inability to quit, perhaps he can make an adjustment to bolster his power numbers and catapult himself into big league contention.

Regardless of his future, Nogowski embodies the beauty of minor league baseball. It is a grind filled with unknowns and second chances, a proving grounds that enables all players to show their worth. As a true underdog of the system, Nogowski as defied the odds, and really does not look to be slowing down anytime soon. Hopefully, he will become a household name in the near future.