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Aaron Schunk is ready to meet the challenge of the big leagues

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The search for a potential upgrade at second base for the Colorado Rockies should still be something on the team’s radar. Yes, Brendan Rodgers is apparently ahead of schedule as he works back from a shoulder injury and could still play this season, and Harold Castro and Alan Trejo continue to at least keep the lineup afloat. Last week, we checked in on Coco Montes with the thesis that he appears ready to join the Rockies. This week, we look at another infielder in Aaron Schunk with the same type of conclusion.

Drafted in 2019 in the second round out of the University of Georgia, Schunk has turned in quality season after season during his four professional years in the Rockies system. In his first year with the Boise Hawks in 2019, Schunk turned in an All-Star season after batting .306/.370/.503 with six home runs and 23 RBI in 46 games. After losing the 2020 minor league season, it was evident in 2021 that Schunk had to reacclimate after not playing against professional competition in over a year. In 89 games with High-A Spokane, he batted .224/.286/.346 with eight home runs and 45 RBI, but he would show more improvement the following season in Double-A Hartford.

In 2022 spending the whole year in Double-A, Schunk improved to a .258/.316/.427 and began to uncork the power with 14 long balls and drove 77 runs in 122 games. It was his first time playing that many games and he made the most of it and showed that 2021 was not a cause for alarm, instead, he is continually improving as a pro in the minor leagues. That sets the stage for his 2023 production with Triple-A Albuquerque and why he could be ready to join the big league club.

Thus far, Schunk has played 31 games in Albuquerque, batting .317/.366/.583 with seven home runs and 27 RBI. In total, he has 38 hits, 17 extra-base hits, and has struck out 36 times to 10 walks. On the surface level, Schunk has done quite well and is a big part of that Albuquerque lineup and it’s largely why he is ranked as the Rockies’ number 30 prospect according to MLB Pipeline.

Looking further past the surface showcases even more of the hot bat that he is swinging this season. What stands out first and foremost is the fact he is sporting a 122wRC+ this season. It’s always good to have a player creating runs in some form and Schunk has proven an ability to do that thanks to an ability his ability to hit for power.

So far, Schunk has an impressive .267 ISO to go along with a .397 BABIP, both of which are career highs. In 2022 he totaled 32 doubles, a mark he is working towards this season with nine doubles. What’s also impressive is that he has reached base in all but about three games he has played this season and has 10 multi-hit games, four of which are three-hit games. When Schunk makes contact, he is proving his offensive worth tenfold and introduces an incredible upgrade possibility at second base for the season. He scores runs, he hits for power, and puts the ball in play fairly often.

When he does that, you get results like this beauty.

That does bring into question one aspect that isn’t proving to be a huge problem but it is always something to keep an eye on at the plate. Strikeouts have grown exponentially since 2021 for Schunk. After a 13% strikeout rate in 2019 playing in rookie ball, that number jumped up to 28% in 2021. He managed to drop it down to 23% in 2022 in Double-A with 115 punchouts in nearly 500 plate appearances, but that number has jumped back up to 27% for the 2023 season.

So far, he is counteracting the strikeouts thanks to his offensive output, but like many hitters we talk about, we would like to see the walks tick up more and more. Schunk has been fairly consistent in that department, hovering around 7%, and currently sits at a career-high 7.6% this season which is a promising indication that he could be improving that plate discipline. Strikeouts are a part of the game and are going to come, but he’s showing an ability to adapt and evolve at the plate and that bodes very well for him for the future.

Finally, a matter of defense. Schunk was typically a third baseman and relief pitcher in college. Once he was drafted, the Rockies settled him in at the hot corner for the foreseeable future. However, during the 2020 pandemic, Schunk worked on learning how to play second base, a position he had proven quite adept to play. Though still primarily used at third, Schunk has still stayed fresh at second base and is more than capable of holding down the position. He may not be as flashy as some other guys, but he gets the job done with no trouble and as long as he is solid, that’s all the Rockies need.

Aaron Schunk has made the natural progression through the Rockies’ system, learning and developing at each level. What is truly fascinating and promising is that he has proven an ability to adapt, grow, and improve while maintaining some level of consistency. That attribute is a crucial one to have and Schunk is proving ready to meet any challenge that comes his way and try to constantly get better each game. That bodes well for his future and the challenge of the big leagues should come calling soon.

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“We compete with each other while we root for each other” — how Daniel Bard and Tyler Kinley’s friendship has fueled their on-field success | Rockies Blog

In this very heartwarming story, learn about how Daniel Bard and Tyler Kinley have become good friends during their time together with the Rockies and have learned what it truly means to be friends and teammates in the big leagues.

Rockies’ C.J. Cron progressing slowly from back injury | The Denver Post ($)

In some injury news from Monday, C.J. Cron is working back slowly from a back injury that has sidelined him for a little bit now. He dealt with back spasms in spring training and they flared up again this month. The Rockies are likely taking it as an opportunity to give someone like Michael Toglia more playing time while getting Cron back to a healthy position where he could be traded at some point.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 13, Round Rock Express 4

The Isotopes got multi-hit games from seven batters in their lineup, led by Trevor Boone’s first multi-homer game. In total, they had 16 hits, including six extra-base hits. On the mound, Jeff Criswell churned out 5 13 innings in which he allowed three runs (two earned) while striking out five and walking one.

Double-A: Altoona Curve 6, Hartford Yard Goats 3

Joe Rock returned to action from injury, pitching three scoreless innings, but did struggle with his command a bit, walking four while striking out three. Grant Lavigne had two hits on the night as did Drew Romo who also hit a two-run homer, his third of the year.

High-A: Vancouver Canadians 5, Spokane Indians 4 (Game 1)

In the first game of the doubleheader, Cullen Kafka suffered the loss after he tossed four innings allowing four runs (two earned) in 4 13 innings. Offensively, Zach Kokoska and Yanquiel Fernandez both hit their 10th homers of the season while Ben Sems turned in a three-hit performance.

High-A: Vancouver Canadians 6, Spokane Indians 4 (Game 2)

Game two of the doubleheader saw a lot of the same types of results as the first. Pitching-wise, each arm the Indians used allowed two runs on three hits. Offensively though things looked a little more exciting despite the same run total. Adael Amador tallied three hits while Zach Kokoska hit his 11th homer of the season as he came a triple shy of the cycle. Jordan Beck also had two hits, including a triple.

Low-A: Stockton Ports 4, Fresno Grizzlies 3

Fresno had an early 3-1 lead after three innings but couldn’t muster any additional runs as the pitching couldn’t hold on late as they dropped the game 4-3. Caleb Franzen tossed five innings, allowing one run on three hits while tallying nine strikeouts to four walks. Jesus Burgarin had two hits including a two-run homer in the first inning and Bryant Betancourt also hit a solo homer in the fifth inning.

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