This Rox prospect is putting up big numbers

May 19th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

DENVER -- Triple-A Albuquerque infielder Aaron Schunk, the Rockies’ No. 30 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is regaining some of the form that was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out a Minor League season.

A second-round MLB Draft pick out of Georgia in 2019, Schunk batted .306 with six homers and an .873 OPS at Rookie-level Boise that season. He was able to work with Rockies coaches at the alternate training site in ‘20, but the swing didn’t carry over and he hit .224 at High-A Spokane in ‘21.

There were some solid offensive moments at Double-A Hartford last year (.258, 14 HR, 77 RBIs), when his keys were “posture, and being a little more direct with my path to the ball.”

This year at Albuquerque has been torrid. Through Thursday, Schunk was batting .315 with six home runs, 23 RBIs and a healthy .923 OPS. Schunk had dropped out of the Top 30 list but hit his way back onto it at the first opportunity.

Schunk is happy to have some momentum.

“There was some frustration with my play in ‘21,” Schunk said. “I was able to use that as motivation that offseason to really work and have a good year in ‘22. I felt like I put together a pretty good campaign last year. Baseball is really hard. To be really good at one point, then go through that, having a strong head and a strong mental game is really important. I learned a lot.”

The 2020 season wasn’t a total loss, however. After playing the infield but also serving as closer in the bullpen in college, Schunk was drafted strictly as an infielder. His tools show best at third base.

But during the 2020 season, Schunk learned second base while working with Warren Schaeffer, who is now the Rockies’ third-base coach. He plays enough at second to stay sharp.

And it’s worthwhile because the bat has developed. On May 3, he went 3-for-4 with a grand slam, two doubles, five RBIs and two walks in a 22-4 victory over Sugar Land. On Tuesday, he added a 3-for-5 performance with a triple and four RBIs in a 17-8 victory over Tacoma.

Schunk, 25, is one of several Rockies putting up big numbers in Albuquerque while awaiting a chance at the big leagues.

The Rockies have turned over shortstop to 21-year-old and opened center field for 25-year-old Brenton Doyle, but those are positions where players can be carried for their defense even if their hitting is inconsistent. A full-blown youth movement begins when a team begins transitioning to organizational products for the bulk of the batting order.

All Schunk and his teammates can do is keep producing in Albuquerque.

“I’m just being simple, not taking myself too seriously and enjoying being around the guys,” Schunk said. “I feel confident in what I’ve worked on with my swing and trying to go out there and show it.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie with this group. We’re trying to be by each other’s side. When someone gets called, we’re real excited for them.”