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Colorado Rockies prospects: No. 12, Karl Kauffmann

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Kauffmann has an advanced approach that will serve him well in the lower minors—and the Rockies hope he also has success against more advanced competition

12. Karl Kauffmann (343 points, 22 ballots)

Karl Kauffmann was the highest drafted player in Colorado’s 2019 class to not play professionally that year, but he had a good reason. That’s because Kauffmann was one of two primary starting pitchers on a Michigan team that finished as the runner-up in the College World Series. In all, he threw 114 23 innings in 2019 for Michigan with a 2.59 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 7.8 K/9 rate. It’s not surprising then that the Rockies decided to hold out Kauffmann from pro ball in 2019.

In terms of the draft, Kauffmann was the 77th overall pick and an overdraft according to some of the national prospect watchers, who had him outside the top 100. The 6’2”, 22-year-old right-hander signed in early July, the last of Colorado’s draftees to do so, for slot money of just over $800K. Though he didn’t pitch professionally in 2019, I think Kauffmann will start off in Asheville in 2020 but move up to Lancaster by the end of the year.

Here’s some video of Kauffmann from April 2019 courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

Kauffmann was #10 in the Baseball Prospectus system ranking with a 50 OFP grade. Here’s Jeffrey Paternostro on Kauffmann:

Kauffmann is a bulldog who attacked Big Ten hitters with a power sinker/slider combo. The fastball generally sits in an average velocity band, although he can tick it up into the mid-90s, and it features good sink and run down in the zone. His mid-80s slider features good late tilt and plays well off the fastball, and Kauffmann is comfortable throwing either pitch to either side of the plate. There’s not really a changeup at present, and there’s a bit of late effort in the delivery that might eventually doom Kauffmann to relief, but he has two present, quality major league offerings and should move quickly in whatever role that Rockies tab for him.

Kauffmann debuted on MLB.com’s Rockies org list at #14 (he was #110 on their draft list):

Kauffmann owned one of the livelier fastballs in the college ranks, usually operating at 91-94 mph, topping out at 96 and holding his velocity deep into games. Its running and sinking action mirrors that of his solid changeup, which he sells well and has good separation from his heater. His slider ranges from 81-86 mph and can be an above-average pitch at times, though it lacks the consistency of his other two offerings.

While Kauffmann has some effort in his delivery, he repeats it well and doesn’t have any difficulty throwing strikes. He has a relatively high floor as a three-pitch starter with a track record of performance. His ability to generate ground balls will make him useful as a reliever if he can’t cut it in a pro rotation.

Kauffmann was ranked 20th in the system by FanGraphs with a FV 40 grade:

Kauffmann is a one-seam sinker/changeup righty with a pretty firm, inconsistent mid-80s slider. A refined slider gives him a good shot to pitch in the back of a rotation. He was used heavily by Michigan during their deep 2019 postseason run, so he didn’t pitch in pro ball last summer.

In a pre-draft report, 2080 Baseball had this to say about Kauffmann:

At his best, Kauffmann attacks with sinkers in the 92-to-94 mph range paired with an above average mid-80s slider that one National League scout said could get major leaguers out now. Seldomly, he’ll mix in a firm 85-to-87 mph changeup that has deceptive arm speed but lacks movement. Kauffmann has flashed the stuff to remain in the rotation as a professional, profiling as a back-end starter.

Looking through the scouting reports, it seems like Kauffmann has an advanced approach that will serve him well in the lower minors—and the Rockies hope he also has success against more advanced competition. Scouts disagree about which of his secondary pitches is better, but either way Kauffmann will need to improve them to succeed at the higher levels.

Pitching prospects that are a good bet to remain in the starting rotation are rare in Colorado’s system, so Kauffmann is certainly a player to watch moving forward. Overall, the combination of pedigree and scouting led me to rank Kauffmann 20th in the system with a FV 40 grade.