24. Aaron Schunk (137 points, 14 ballots)
Schunk was Colorado’s second rounder in 2019 — 62nd overall — signing for a slot bonus of just over $1.1 million. He was a two-way player at the University of Georgia, serving both as the third baseman and closer for the Bulldogs, but he’s been just a hitter in affiliated ball.
After blazing through the pitcher friendly Northwest League the summer after his draft, Schunk was lauded for his performance at the alternative site in 2020 and looked to have a big 2021 in High-A. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way for the 24-year-old, who has split his time professionally between third and second base.
Performing at a league average age in Spokane, Schunk’s .224/.286/.346 line with eight homers, 24 extra-base hits, and 13 steals in 18 attempts was just a 71 wRC+. That includes a 28% strikeout rate that more than doubled from his 2019 season against a 6% walk rate. That’s a big collapse in plate discipline and power stats against age-appropriate pitching. Defensively, Schunk committed five errors in 38 games at second and one error in 46 at third base.
Here’s some video of Schunk from July 2018 in the Cape Cod League courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
After ranking Schunk 10th last March as a 40+ FV player, FanGraphs dropped him down all the way to a prospect of note status in their January review, saying only that he and fellow PuRP Grant Lavigne “are corner-only types who have needed to perform consistently to stay afloat, which hasn’t happened”.
MLB.com ranked Schunk 9th on their mid-season 2021 list, reflecting the perception many PuRPs voters had of him entering that season but one that seems out of date given his performance in 2021 and the FanGraphs rank:
[Schunk] showed even better bat speed and an ability to drive the ball with authority to all fields with an advanced approach in 2020, giving him every chance to hit for average and power from the right side of the plate in the future.
A third baseman with the Bulldogs and during his debut, the Rockies started introducing second base to Schunk at the alternate site and he got a lot of reps there during instructs, with the organization pleasantly surprised how quickly he took to it, showing more athleticism than expected. He gets very high marks for his leadership skills and work ethic, with his very consistent bat now possibly profiling well at two infield positions.
It’s been a pretty steep fall on the list for Schunk, who was a top 10 player as evaluated by most prospect sites entering 2021 but now merits not much more than a passing mention. I still remember the pedigree and older reports, but his free-fall at the plate and with scouts led me to leave Schunk off my personal ballot as one of the last cuts.
Schunk will be Rule 5 eligible after the season, but if he hits this way again in 2022 that’s not much of a risk. We’ll see if the Rockies send him back to Spokane this year or if he’s bumped up to Double-A where there will be less PuRP competition for reps.