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The Rockies farm system is better than advertised - Part II

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, July 13th, 2022

As I’ve said before, the Rockies have an unfairly maligned but very bottom heavy farm system. However, prospects are on the move and beginning to work their way up the ranks. Last week I covered the first half of a cluster of roster moves and promotions the Colorado Rockies had made on July 6th: those being assigned to the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies and the High-A Spokane Indians. This week I want to cover the second half of that list—the prospects that are moving to Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque.

To Double-A Hartford:

1B Grant Lavigne (no. 22 PuRP) has seen his prospect rankings take a dip over the last season. The organization’s no. 10 prospect in 2020 with MLB Pipeline and our no. 15 PuRP for midseason 2020, Lavigne has dropped to no. 21 with MLB Pipeline. His fall in the rankings was largely due to a difficult second half of the season in 2021. Lavigne rightfully earned his promotion to the High-A Spokane Indians after slashing .281/.388/.442 with the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies over 72 games, but struggled to adjust to the higher level of play. With the Indians he slashed a meager .225/.362/.342 over 32 games and had just eight extra base hits as a power bat in the lineup. Lavigne did find success in his on-base percentage and drawing walks. He took a free base 22 times compared to his 39 strikeouts. He started the 2022 season with Spokane and showed immediate improvement. In 68 games he hit .315/.406/.469 with five home runs and continued to draw walks at a decent pace with 36 to his 68 strikeouts. Lavigne has taken to Hartford well. In seven games with the Yard Goats he’s hitting .292/.433/.417 with five walks to ten strikeouts and five RsBI. He also clubbed his first Double-A home run just the other day.

RHP Tony Locey (no. 31 PuRP) was one of my favorite parts of the Nolan Arenado trade. A big 6’3’’ righty with a power fastball, Locey started his 2021 season in the bullpen with the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies, but really came into his own when he moved into the Grizzlies rotation in July.

Tony Locey - Bullpen vs Starter 2021

Reliever May 5 - July 15 15 22 96 20 10 9 2 16 23 3.68 1.636 .253/.375/.418
Starter July 20 - September 16 10 42.2 184 32 17 15 1 28 57 3.16 1.406 .213/.359/.320

Locey has remained a starter as he’s climbed through the Rockies farm system. Starting the 2022 campaign with the High-A Spokane Indians Locey made 12 starts and pitched 67 innings with a 3.09 ERA and 64 strikeouts. Effectively wild, Locey has held a BB/9 over 5.0 in each level of the minor leagues but counterbalances it with his solid strikeout stuff. With a high three-quarters arm slot, Locey utilizes a four seam fastball that can hit 100 mph, a solid slider and curveball tandem, and a developing changeup. Locey has struggled in his first two starts with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats. In 7.0 innings he’s given up 11 hits and 11 runs (10 earned) including two home runs. He’s walked seven batters and struck out just four. However, Locey has a “bulldog mentality” that drives him to succeed and I can definitely see him turning things around quickly.

SS Christopher Navarro doesn’t have the same “wow” factor as other players on this list but is an interesting player in his own right. Largely promoted to replace the injured Ezequiel Tovar, Navarro is a contact-focused batter with a solid approach and discipline. In High-A Spokane he drew 11 walks to 25 strikeouts in 110 plate appearances. Navarro has a strong arm and solid footwork that plays anywhere in the infield. He has played every infield position while in the Rockies farm system.

To Triple-A Albuquerque:

OF Jimmy Herron was originally drafted in the third round by the Chicago Cubs in 2018, but came to the Rockies via trade in 2019. He had a fabulous stint with the A+ Lancaster Jethawks after being acquired for cash considerations by slashing .338/.403/.544 with four home runs and 13 RsBI in 77 plate appearances. While he’s struggled at the plate in higher levels of play, he has a very strong approach and draws plenty of walks. In 54 games with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats this season he drew 28 walks to just 37 strikeouts while slashing a respectable .260/.373/.465 (all high marks since that 2019 season). Herron also has the speed to play center field in addition to corner outfield and is a decent stealing threat while on base.

RHP Karl Kauffmann (no. 20 PuRP) was a competitive balance pick selected 77th overall in the 2019 draft, after which he went on to play in the College World Series as a major part of Michigan’s rotation. After the 2020 minor league season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rockies chose to challenge the righty by sending him straight to Double-A Hartford for his first professional season after just two starts with High-A Spokane. Kauffmann’s first year in Hartford definitely was a challenge. Through 19 games and 18 starts over 82 innings he pitched to an ERA of 7.35 and gave up 18 home runs. Kauffmann started the 2022 season with Hartford and looked tremendously more comfortable. His ERA stood at 4.06 after 15 starts and 77 23 innings, only gave up nine home runs, and struck out 84 batters.

Looking settled in at the Double-A level, Kauffmann was promoted to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes where he impressed in his first Triple-A start. Kauffmann worked for five innings and gave up no earned runs (though he is credited with two unearned runs). He struggled somewhat with control by walking three batters, but struck out four and only allowed three hits. It’s not out of the question that Karl Kauffmann could break camp with the big league team next year if he continues to perform well with Albuquerque.

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While the Rockies farm system is definitely still bottom heavy, prospects are finally starting to make their way to the higher levels of play. If those trying to make their mark with Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque are able to find and maintain success then they might be able to help their struggling major league club sooner rather than later.

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9 teams that could target Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chad Kuhl | Rox Pile

While it’s possible the Rockies will seek to extend starting pitcher Chad Kuhl, the Delaware lefty is on a one year deal and it might be worthwhile to explore trade options. Noah Yingling at Rox Pile breaks down various possible destinations for the lefty that might be interested in his services at the deadline.

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On The Farm

Triple-A: Sacremento River Cats 5, Albuquerque Isotopes 4

Ashton Goudeau gave up five earned runs off of six hits and three walks in five innings of work, including a solo home run. The Isotopes bullpen did an excellent job keeping the game within reach, pitching a combined three shutout innings across three pitchers: Nick Kennedy, Logan Cozart, and JD Hammer. Every starter on the Isotopes lineup card had at least one hit as Albuquerque put up 11 hits. Jonathan Morales and LJ Hatch both had two hit nights while Wynton Bernard and Alan Trejo both hit doubles. Only three of the Isotopes’ four runs were earned.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 6, Harrisburg Senators 2

Starting pitcher Michael Baird gave up seven hits over five innings but held the Senators to just two earned runs on the night while striking out four batters. Riley Pint pitched a scoreless sixth inning, giving up a hit and a walk but striking out two. Finn Del Bonta-Smith pitched 1 23 scoreless innings with a strikeout and a walk, while PJ Poulin pitched 1 13 innings for his sixth save of the season. On offense, Brenton Doyle continued his hot streak with a 2-for-3 night and a home run. Aaron Schunk and Kyle Datres both had multi-hit games, with Datres going 3-for-4 with two RsBI.

High-A: Spokane Indians 9, Eugene Emeralds 5

The Spokane Indians put on a late offensive clinic by scoring nine runs on 14 hits while going 6-for-13 with RISP. Down by four going into the ninth, they surged to score eight runs for the win. Every member of the starting nine had a hit and five of them had two. The Indians also drew a total of five walks. Ronaiker Palma hit his second home run in High-A on a 2-for-5 night with two RsBI . Warming Bernabel continues to thrive in Spokane with a 2-for-4 night, a walk, and an RBI. Drew Romo and Julio Carreras both hit doubles in two-hit nights, with Romo going 2-for-3 with two walks. On the mound, Mike Ruff pitched five innings in his start while allowing five earned runs on six hits, including three home runs. He did strike out six batters and walked none. Anderson Bido pitched two hitless shutout frames with a strikeout. Tyler Ahearn earned his first win of the season with a scoreless eighth inning and Austin Kitchen finished things off with a scoreless ninth.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 9, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 4

Case Williams pitched six complete innings but struggled with command by walking four batters and giving up two home runs. He allowed four earned runs on five total hits. Luis Amoroso locked things down for the rest of the game, pitching three hitless shutout innings with two strikeouts to earn his first save of the season. Yanquiel Fernandez went 2-for-4 with a walk and two RsBI while hitting a triple, while Juan Brito and Zach Kokoska were both 2-for-5 and Kokoska hit a triple of his own. AJ Lewis had a three RsBI night while hitting two doubles and EJ Andrews also went 2-for-4.

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