We all know about the lost seasons suffered by Ryan Rolison and Colton Welker in 2021. An appendectomy in June followed by a broken hand bone in August derailed Ryan Rolison’s campaign while Colton Welker was out of game action for the first 80 games due to a PED suspension. Both of these players are expected to rebound in 2022 and be contributors for the major league squad, but they are not the only prospects with an eye on regaining their status next season. Here are three players lower in the system whose stock may rise after taking a dip in 2021:
As an unheralded international signing in February of 2017, Julio Carreras quietly built up a fair amount of hype after strong showings in the DSL in 2018 and the Pioneer League in 2019. Heading into the 2021 season, Carreras ranked as our No. 16 PuRP and was set to anchor the left side of the Fresno infield alongside Ezequiel Tovar. Unfortunately, his first full season got off to a brutal start.
Carreras posted an OPS of just .570 in the first month of the season with an unsightly strikeout rate of 34%. He slowly progressed each month, however, and from July onward carried a much more respectable 21.5% strikeout rate. Carreras posted a .226/.273/.361, 65 wRC+ first 60 games, but finished with a .303/.361/.447, 112 wRC+ over his final 34 games.
Still just 22, Carreras had a strong finish his first full season in the minors. If the hitter we saw at the end of the campaign shows up in 2022, he should expect much healthier results over his second full season.
After tossing over 130 innings for the Michigan Wolverines on their run to the College World Series finals, the Rockies chose not to tax Karl Kauffman any further in 2019 and wait for his pro debut to come in 2020. Well, 2020 never came so Kauffman and the Rockies had to wait until 2021 instead. To make up for lost time, the team aggressively moved him up to Double-A Hartford after just two starts in High-A Spokane.
Our No. 11 PuRP heading into the season, Kauffman struggled with the promotion, posting a 7.35 ERA over 82 innings with the Yard Goats. His FIP wasn’t much better at 6.50 and his walk-rate against the higher competition spiked to 10.1%. But some data suggests he also fell victim to a few bad breaks along the way. His xFIP was 5.03 compared to his previously mentioned actual mark of 6.50 and opponents tallied a ridiculous .379 BABIP against Kauffman despite hitting it on the ground 51.9% of the time.
However, Kauffman seemed to start turning the corner over his final five starts. In 27 ⅓ innings, he posted a 3.95 ERA and dropped his walk rate a full point - edging it closer to his 8.3% career collegiate walk rate - while also producing a two percent increase in his strikeout rate.
Kauffman may never have the pure stuff to be dominant. But if he can carry the adjustments that led to success at the end of last season over into 2022, he may perform at a much higher level over the full season.
There are plenty of Aaron Schunk supporters in Rockies nation. Heading into 2021, we tabbed Schunk as our No. 6 PuRP following an impressive 2019 in short-season Boise. Unfortunately, his jump into full-season ball was a bumpy ride.
Schunk’s strikeout rate of 13.0% in 2019 jumped to 28.1% in High-A Spokane in 2021. His triple slash took a nose-dive to .223/.286/.346 but the walk rate remained steady relative to his 2019 performance, sitting at 6.3% in 2021. That’s not high, but it’s respectable.
What really gives hope that Schunk will rebound in 2022 is his line drive rate of 25% - seventh highest in the system - and fly ball rate of 41.8%. His quality of contact did not disappoint, however it resulted in a BABIP of .296, relatively low in a hitter-friendly Spokane environment that produced the four highest individual BABIPs in the Northwest League last season.
While Schunk underperformed relative to expectations in 2021, he still offers a compelling profile that includes defensive versatility on the infield and a line-drive approach to all fields. The lost season in 2020 due to the pandemic may have hurt him more than any other player in the system last season. With a little better luck, Schunk may be able to restore his prospect luster in 2022.
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Keith Law provides his annual top prospects for the Colorado system. The usual suspects can be found up top with Zac Veen, Drew Romo and Benny Montgomery taking the the top spots in that order. The biggest surprise of the list is Ryan Vilade, whom Law left out of his top 20.
Noah Yingling gives a sharp view at the recent stance by the league in CBA negotiations and how the Rockies are prime example to the contrary. As franchise values soar, team payroll increases reflect only a fraction of those gains.
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