20. Grant Lavigne (252 points, 22 ballots)
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% walk rate). The 23-year-old, 6’4”, 220-pound, righty-throwing, lefty-hitting first baseman had a tremendous debut offensive season in 2018 (160 wRC+) but only in 2022 while repeating in High-A has Lavigne approached that performance in full-season ball.
Don’t get me wrong, Lavigne was at or above league average offensively each season. He just didn’t do it in the way you’d expect a first baseman his size to compile that kind of stat line. It’s not quite a Three True Outcomes profile, because while you’re quite likely to see a strikeout (24% of PA) or walk (14%) from Lavigne, in four seasons’ worth of plate appearances, he’s only managed 32 home runs and a .405 slugging percentage.
As mentioned above, Lavigne began 2022 repeating in High-A Spokane as a player about 0.5 years younger than league average. In 282 plate appearances, Lavigne hit an excellent .315/.406/.469 (145 wRC+) with five homers among his 24 extra-base hits to earn a July promotion to Double-A Hartford in his native New England. With Hartford, Lavigne split defensive time at first with fellow PuRP Michael Toglia until Toglia got a promotion to Triple-A in August. In 242 PA against pitchers who were about 1.8 years older on average, Lavigne hit .245/.347/.370 with five homers among his 14 extra-base hits — which again settles in at an above average 102 wRC+.
After a hot start in Hartford, (.960 July OPS), Lavigne cooled down with a .589 August OPS and .652 September OPS. His home/road splits will fit in just fine as a Rockies player, as Lavigne hit .333/.420/.524 at home and just .229/.335/.317 as a visitor across the two levels, but he didn’t show much in the way of platoon splits.
The Rockies sent Lavigne to the prestigious Arizona Fall League in mid-September, where he impressed in 71 plate appearances at a league average age with a .328/.409/.557 line that included ten extra-base hits. That performance led to speculation the Rockies would add Lavigne to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but Lavigne wasn’t protected (and wasn’t selected) this time around.
Here’s some video on Lavigne from the Arizona Fall League this past fall, including a slo-mo look at a swing (here’s another one):
MLB.com is high on Lavigne, ranking him 14th as a 45 FV player in Colorado’s system. They also ranked him recently as the 7th best 1B prospect in the minors as a 45 FV player, just behind fellow PuRP Michael Toglia:
Lavigne entered pro ball with a definite hit-over-power profile, but he got into trouble when he started to try to sell out for power too much. He got back to a better overall approach in 2022, drawing more walks and showing the ability to make more consistently hard contact from the left side of the plate. The power is going to come thanks to his natural strength and bat speed and the Rockies were pleased with how he adjusted to the Eastern League after his promotion.
It’s possible Lavigne will never be more than a fringy defender at first base, one with a below-average arm, but this part of his game improved as well in 2022. He’s a tireless worker, one who will be at the upper levels of the Rockies’ system at age 23 for most of the 2023 season and who still has the potential to develop into a big league regular.
Keith Law of the Athletic placed Lavigne in the “others of note” section in his top 20 system rank back in February 2022:
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 (HM PuRP), Lavigne plunged into the “prospect of note” category for FanGraphs in January 2022 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”.
Lavigne’s a first-base-only bat with a hit over power approach (though he walked or struck out in over 40% of his Double-A plate appearances) who hasn’t shown much in the way of loud (or frequent) contact even against A-ball lower minors pitching until 2022. 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. He doesn’t possess elite tools or much defensive utility and is clearly behind Toglia in the MLB playing time order (plus Elehuris Montero and maybe Sean Bouchard as well).
With that written, Lavigne’s strong offensive season propelled him back onto my PuRPs list in 24th as a 40 FV player, but it’s safe to say I’m less of a fan of this type of profile compared with other PuRPs voters. The Rockies deciding not to protect Lavigne from the Rule 5 draft was an indicator of where he fits into their plans, but he did receive an invitation to Spring Training last week. Lavigne will have an opportunity in the upper minors in 2023 — probably starting back in Double-A with a bump to Triple-A once Toglia sticks in the big leagues to change their minds.