29. Aaron Schunk (87 points, 12 ballots)
For a time in 2020, Aaron Schunk looked like he was on the fast track to Coors. He was added to Colorado’s 60-man player pool a year after getting drafted in the second round in 2019 out of Georgia and was listed as high as number six in the pre-season 2021 PuRPs poll. The 6’1” righty infielder, a former two-way player in college, crushed Short Season-A ball in his draft year, but struggled mightily at High-A in 2021. He was a league-average hitter in 2022 with Double-A, but wasn’t protected or selected in the Rule 5 draft.
In 2023, the 26-year-old had the benefit of hitting in Triple-A Albuquerque, one of the hitter-friendliest parks in one of the hitter-friendliest leagues in affiliated ball. As such, Schunk’s .290/.350/.461 batting line with 14 HR and 44 XBH in 508 PA only translates to a 93 wRC+. Nonetheless, the slugging represents an encouraging step forward for a player who has struggled to tap into his raw power in games. Defensively, Schunk had 13 errors in 84 games at third and two errors in 26 games at second.
Those numbers were fine, but they weren’t enough to jump Schunk onto the Rockies roster and he was again left unprotected (and unselected) in the Rule 5 draft. He’s likely to begin 2024 back in Triple-A as the starter at third, unless fellow PuRPs Warming Bernabel or Sterlin Thompson usurp it from him this spring.
Here’s Schunk hitting a homer in June 2023, courtesy of MLB Prospect Watch:
The right-handed-hitting infielder made some minor tweaks to his mechanical setup at the plate, and the Rockies are hopeful that change to his approach and gameplan continue to lead to more consistent production at the plate. He does have the ability to hit the ball hard with good bat speed and can drive the ball to all fields, though most of his power has been showing up to his pull side. There’s still a good amount of swing-and-miss to his game, but his overall approach has been much better.
While he’s not a burner, Schunk is a good baserunner who maximizes his fringy speed. He’s continued to show defensive flexibility, playing an excellent third base — his position from his amateur days — as well as a solid second base. If his adjustments at the plate are for real, his ability to play multiple spots could help him reach Coors Field.
FanGraphs ranked Schunk in their “Power Bats” section below the main list in June 2023:
[Schunk] fell off the prospect lists here after the 2021 season because of strikeouts, but he’s performed at or above the league average each of the last two years as an old-for-the-level player.
Schunk brings positional versatility at third and second as well as right-handed power potential to the table for the Rockies. He’s been a steady performer the last couple years, though not in an eye-catching way. Considering Colorado’s struggles in finding a steady utility infielder, Schunk could be a 2024 contributor there, though his lack of shortstop utility dampens that possibility somewhat. More likely, Schunk could be an option if injuries or trades open up regular playing time at either second or third base. Schunk is a 35+ FV player in my eyes and was HM on my list, but players with this profile are useful to have a call away from the Show.