When the Colorado Rockies first drafted right-handed pitcher Karl Kauffmann (no. 23 PuRP) with their competitive balance pick in 2019, I’m not sure they expected his path to Major League Baseball to be quite like this. After missing his first season of professional baseball with the Rockies farm system due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kauffmann is on the precipice of his big league debut after just two seasons and change of minor league ball.
Karl Kauffmann played three seasons with the University of Michigan as a key member of the pitching staff. Though he was a reliever his freshman season, he was moved to the rotation in 2018. He started 34 of his 48 total appearances and posted an ERA of 2.99 with a WHIP of 1.170 over 223 total innings.
Kauffmann and his Wolverines (which included Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt’s son Matthew and current Rockies minor league pitcher Jeff Criswell) were one of the best squads the University of Michigan had seen in decades. They won over 50 games for the first time since 1987 and made the College World Series for the first time since 1984. As Michigan’s ace, Kauffmann started 20 games, had an ERA of 3.03, and struck out 111 batters.
While Michigan would eventually lose to Vanderbilt, that ERA must have been a sign because he was firmly on the Rockies’ radar. He was selected with the 77th overall pick in the 2019 draft.
The start of Kauffmann’s professional career was delayed twice. He didn’t pitch for the organization in 2019 after Michigan’s extended College World Series run, and the 2020 minor league season was cancelled due to COVID. He instead had to hit the ground running in 2021. He was assigned to the High-A Spokane Indians for something of a tune-up, making two starts before going straight to the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats in something of a fast-track through the farm system.
Kauffmann struggled in 2021 with the Yard Goats. Assigned to an extremely high level of play for someone in their first professional season he made 18 starts in 19 appearances and had an ERA of 7.35. He had a hard time missing bats, got hit a lot, and got hit hard. In 82 innings of work Kauffmann had a 13.5 H/9 and a 2.0 HR/9 with Hartford while also issuing 41 walks to 65 strikeouts.
Kauffmann would be re-assigned to Double-A for the 2022 season and made it clear that he had adapted. In 77 2⁄3 innings with the Yard Goats he improved in basically every category. Walks were way down, strikeouts were way up. He got hit less, gave up fewer home runs, and had an ERA of 4.06 before being called up to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes in July. Karl Kauffmann was in Triple-A—the doorstep of Major League Baseball—in just his second professional season.
Karl Kauffmann Minor League Pitching
Of course, being in Triple-A and conquering it are two very different things, especially in the hitter-friendly environment of the PCL. Kauffmann had difficulty finding his footing with the Isotopes in 2022 with his BB/9 ballooning to 6.3 over 64 innings and an ERA of 6.05.
Although he was unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft, Kauffmann remained with the Rockies and was invited to spring training for 2023. He performed well in Arizona, pitching 16 2⁄3 innings over six appearances, had an ERA of 3.78, and struck out nine batters compared to just one walk. I felt at the time that Kauffmann would fare much better in Albuquerque to start the 2023 season.
Here’s where things get a little tricky. Kauffmann has a 7.78 ERA with the Isotopes through eight starts this season, but that number is a bit deceiving. He’s giving up a lot of contact with a 13.1 H/9, but he’s not being hit particularly hard considering he’s only given up 5 home runs. He’s not striking out batters to his full potential with only 26 strikeouts and a SO/9 of 6.3, but he’s also not walking batters either. Kauffmann has a BB/9 of 2.9 so far this season for the best mark of his professional career so far. His FIP (5.56) and xFIP (5.80) suggest he is pitching better than his base numbers would suggest in a league that’s very unfriendly to pitchers.
Kauffmann does have the ability to strike out batters consistently, we’ve seen him do it. However, he also pitches well when aiming for ground ball contact. He’s got the stuff and the work ethic to be a big league workhorse in the rotation. His low-to-mid 90s fastball maintains it’s shape and velocity well through innings and he can back it up with a strong changeup and a quality slider. While he has under-performed in Albuquerque, I’m far more interested in seeing what he can do on a big league mound.
Now Kauffmann doesn’t have to wait much longer for that opportunity. With an extremely thin rotation due to injuries, the Rockies need reinforcements. Karl Kauffmann has been called up to start Friday’s game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. After just two seasons and change in the Rockies’ farm system, Karl Kauffmann will be a big league starter.
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The Rockies threw up 11 runs without a home run in their Wednesday victory over the Cincinnati Reds, and that seems to be a trend. The Rockies are bottom five in the league for home runs so far this season with only 37 as a team, but are still plugging away with victories in the month of May. A key contributor has been Jurickson Profar and his 27-game on base streak. MLB.com’s Rockies beat reporter Thomas Harding discusses the Rockies offense.
After a long and arduous journey, Riley Pint can officially say he’s a big league reliever. Although his first outing didn’t go as planned, and he was optioned following the game, Pint took the mound at Coors Field on Wednesday for the first time.
Wednesday was also Danielle Allentuck’s final day on the Rockies beat for the Gazette. We wish her the best of luck in all of her future endeavors!
One last time from 20th and Blake…— Danielle Allentuck (@d_allentuck) May 17, 2023
Today is my last game covering the Rockies for the Gazette. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read and interacted with my work over the past 2+ years pic.twitter.com/XM1KJFZyYG
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On the Farm
Karl Kauffmann’s former Michigan teammate Jeff Criswell put together a solid start for the Isotopes. Criswell worked six complete innings while giving up two earned runs and striking out four batters. In his return from the IL, PJ Poulin gave up a run on two hits and a walk, but also struck out two batters. Matt Carasiti worked 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings to keep the Isotopes in the game, but the offense couldn’t get it done. The Isotopes only scored two runs on four hits. Both runs were driven in by Yonathan Daza.
With the help of a 10 run sixth inning, the Hartford Bouncing Pickles bounced their way to a briny victory over the Portland Sea Dogs. Only two of those runs came off the long ball with a Grant Lavigne two run shot in the sixth inning, All but one of the starters had a hit, though walks were a key to victory. Hartford drew 11 walks and had 12 hits to score their 14 total runs. Andrew Quezada struck out five batters in five innings as the starter, but gave up four runs (three earned) on two walks and five hits. Evan Justice and Finn Del Bonta-Smith combined for 2 1⁄3 scoreless innings. Del Bonta-Smith walked three batters but struck out four without allowing a hit.
Well paint me green and call me a pickle pic.twitter.com/Dhld9aNwmd— Hartford Yard Goats (@GoYardGoats) May 18, 2023
The Spokane Indians trounced the Everett AquaSox as Zach Kokoska, Jordan Beck, and Yanquiel Fernandez continue their red hot streaks. Beck hit his league-leading tenth home run in a 3-for-4 night, Kokoska went 3-for-5 with a double, and Fernandez went 2-for-5 with four RsBI. Cullen Kafka—not piggybacking off of Jaden Hill this time—had a good start on the mound, allowing just one run over five innings of work with five strikeouts. Bryce McGowan made his High-A debut with a 1-2-3 eighth inning and a strikeout.
Indians Jordan Beck with his league leading 10th HR and 31st RBI in the top of the 3rd at Everett. Spokane leads 5-0 bottom of 3.— Spokane Indians (@spokaneindians) May 18, 2023
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Blake Adams had another great start packed with strikeouts. Adams gave up two earned runs over six innings and struck out seven batters. Adams has 45 strikeouts this season in 36 innings of work. Strikeouts were the big issue for the Grizzlies offense, as they were sat down 13 times via the K in the shutout loss. Only Parker Kelly had a multi-hit game. Kelly was 2-for-4 with two doubles.
All good things must come to an end...— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) May 18, 2023
But a new winning streak starts tomorrow! ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/yFHPYiNqfd
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