22. Grant Lavigne (141 points, 15 ballots)
Grant Lavigne’s profile is buoyed by draft pedigree (42nd pick overall in the 2018 draft, over-slot $2 million bonus) and plate discipline (career 14.1% walk rate). The 6’4”, 220-pound, 22-year-old righty-throwing, lefty-hitting first baseman had a tremendous debut offensive season in 2018 (160 wRC+) but has yet to approach that performance in full-season ball.
Notably, while Lavigne has continued to walk at higher levels, his strikeout rate increased from 15.5% in 2018 to 24.5% in 2019 and 25.0% in 2021 (no affiliated ball action in 2020). Similarly, Lavigne saw his batting average decline from .350 to .236, with a rebound to .264 in 2021. That written, Lavigne was still above average offensively in 2019 (104 wRC+) thanks to the walks, and he was 2.5 years younger than league average.
In 2021, Lavigne began by repeating in Low-A at a league average age. In 308 plate appearances with Fresno, Lavigne saw his power output increase over his 2019 at the same level (.442 SLG in 2021 vs. just .327 in 2019). His batting line of .281/.388/.442 with 24 extra base hits and seven steals in nine attempts was good for a 123 wRC+. After starting off slow with a .652 OPS in May, Lavigne heated up to a .886 OPS in June and .922 OPS in July.
On August 3rd, Lavigne got the promotion to High-A in lockstep with fellow PuRP Michael Toglia earning a bump to Double-A. In 139 plate appearances with Spokane against pitchers who were 1.9 years older on average, Lavigne’s batting average and slugging took a hit while the strikeout rate approached 28%. The .225/.362/.342 line included just eight extra-base hits and was about league average (99 wRC+). Defensively, Lavigne only saw action at first base, where he committed eight errors between the two levels in 2021.
Here is some video of Lavigne from April 2019 courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
Keith Law of the Athletic placed Lavigne in the “others of note” section in his top 20 system rank back in February:
First baseman Grant Lavigne salvaged his prospect status by hitting well while repeating Low-A, but scuffled in a month in High-A without power. He has to go back there and mash again to get back on track to the majors in his age-22 season
As was the case for Aaron Schunk (No. 24 PuRP), Lavigne plunged into the “prospect of note” category for FanGraphs after residing previously in the 40 FV area. The lone note was that “Schunk and Lavigne are corner-only types who have needed to perform consistently to stay afloat, which hasn’t happened”.
In MLB.com’s mid-season system ranking, Lavigne ranked 19th:
At his best, Lavigne’s strengths as a left-handed hitter are his knowledge of the strike zone and his ability to drive the ball to all fields. While he drew a lot of walks in 2019, he was too passive at the plate and missed too many good pitches to hit. He also got pull-happy and tried to sell out for power, leading to a spike in strikeouts, instead of just letting his natural strength and bat speed do the work. At instructs, he looked more like the 2018 version than the lost ’19 edition, making more hard contact and using the entire field more consistently.
It will be Lavigne’s bat that will carry him to the big leagues, as he’s definitely a first baseman only with a below-average arm. The Rockies are optimistic he righted the ship last fall and hope the reps of a full season will fully get him back on track.
When I compile my personal PuRPs ballot, I look for elite tools, defensive utility, and proximity to the big leagues compared to 40-man roster status. With that in mind, and with the exception of pedigree, it’s no wonder why I’ve consistently been lower on Lavigne than most other voters (he didn’t make my top 30 this time around). Lavigne’s a first-base-only bat who hasn’t shown much in the way of loud (or frequent) contact even against full-season lower minors pitching. Though the high walk rates are good, at the upper levels prospects need to show the ability to do damage to pitches over the heart of the plate to keep pitchers nibbling on the corners.
Beyond that, Lavigne is clearly behind Toglia and other upper-minors PuRPs like Colton Welker in the organizational hierarchy (not to mention CJ Cron for the next two years) and will be Rule 5 eligible after the season. Lavigne is currently in his first big league spring training, after which I expect him to be assigned back to High-A as he waits for Toglia’s next promotion to clear some playing time for him in Double-A. Lavigne could still play a role in the big leagues with the Rockies, but he’ll really need to show well this season to stand out from a crowd of players ahead of him.