9. Aaron Schunk (444 points, 22 ballots)
In a sea of highly drafted corner infield prospects for the Colorado Rockies (there are 5-7 in the top ten of the PuRPs list alone depending on your opinion on their defensive utility), Aaron Schunk can get lost in the shuffle. So let’s differentiate him from the others.
Schunk is notable for his two-way prowess: at the University of Georgia, he served both as the third baseman and closer for the Bulldogs with a low 90s fastball/slider mix. More importantly, he hit .339/.373/.600 in a breakout junior season which saw him finally tap into the raw power he’d displayed in BP the previous two years. That led him to be drafted 62nd overall in 2019. The 6’2” slugger signed for slot money at just over $1.1 million and was assigned to Short Season A Boise.
In the pitcher-friendly Northwest League, Schunk was about league average in age but not in offensive production. In 192 plate appearances, almost all of them during June or July (he played in only two games in August and two in September for reasons I wasn’t able to figure out), Schunk was a dynamo offensively. His .306/.370/.503 line with 20 extra-base hits (6 HR) translates to an excellent 145 wRC+. Schunk neither walked (7.3%) nor struck out (13%) much and he did display a home/road OPS split of .996/.680.
Here’s some video of Schunk from July 2018 in the Cape Cod League courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
Baseball Prospectus ranks Schunk seventh in the system with a 50 OFP designation. Here’s Jeffrey Paternostro on Schunk:
Schunk won the John Olerud Award for best two-way college player, but his future is on the position player side. He added a bunch of game power his junior year and it should carry over to wood bats, as he will show off plus raw to all fields. He’s not a mere corner masher either, as there’s a potential above-average hit tool in the profile based on his bat speed and present feel for the barrel. At third base, Schunk is athletic with a good first step and solid hands, with plenty of arm for the hot corner. David Lee saw some Austin Riley potential in the profile this Spring, although Schunk is only three months younger than Riley right now.
Schunk was 42nd on the FanGraphs 2019 draft board and he slots in at 8th in the system with a FV 40+ grade:
In the mold of Sheldon Neuse or J.D. Davis, Schunk was a burly, two-way college prospect with power and arm strength. After two years of struggling to get to his raw power in games (he hit just four homers combined his freshman and sophomore seasons), Schunk had a breakout junior year and clubbed 15 dingers. We were hoping he’d start pulling and lifting the ball more and he did, both at Georgia and during his first pro summer. He’s an athletic gamer who’s a good defender at third, though because of the arm strength there was some speculative projecting while Schunk was an amateur that he might catch. The power production needs to keep coming, but Schunk has a shot to be a regular.
Schunk makes consistent line-drive contact from the right side of the plate and improved offensively in each of his three seasons with the Bulldogs. He has the strength and bat speed to hit for more power — he shows at least solid raw pop in batting practice and more than tripled his career home run total as a junior — but he’ll probably top out at 12-15 homers per year unless he adds more loft to his swing. He puts the bat on the ball so easily that he rarely walks, another adjustment he’ll have to make as he progresses in his pro career.
Schunk has fringy speed out of the batter’s box but a quicker first step that helps make him at least a solid defender at third base. He also has soft hands and a strong arm, though he needs to improve his defensive consistency. If everything comes together, he could be a .270 hitter with 20 homers who’s an asset at the hot corner.
Ultimately, it was the kind of debut one expects and hopes for from a highly drafted position player out of a major conference. I expect the 22-year-old Schunk to be considered for a role with High A Lancaster to start 2020, though Low A Asheville is of course the favorite. At that pace, he could be in contention for big league contribution within 2-3 years.
Of course, Schunk’s primary defensive position is blocked at both the major league and upper minor league levels, so his path forward is somewhat dependent on how that logjam ahead of him gets resolved. As a second rounder with a strong professional debut, I ranked Schunk eighth in the system with a FV 45 grade on my personal ballot as a potential big league regular at the position—and five of the players ahead of him are also infielders.