The valuable lesson learned by Rox prospect

June 18th, 2022

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.

Right-hander Karl Kauffmann, a second-round Draft pick by the Rockies in 2019 and the club’s No. 28 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, decided getting hitters out was more important than being defined by his analytics.

Unable to pitch in 2020 because of the pandemic, Kauffmann posted a 2.89 ERA in two games at High-A Spokane in '21, then moved to Double-A Hartford -- a tall ask in a player’s first professional season. He went 2-11 with a 7.35 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) but emerged with valuable lessons. And this year at Hartford through 12 starts, he is 4-3 with a 3.77 ERA and 70 strikeouts against 23 walks in 62 innings.

“With the new push in analytics and stuff, you think there’s one way to get success and get to the big leagues, when really there’s a multitude of ways to get there and different players succeed at that level,” said Kauffmann, who helped the University of Michigan to the 2019 College World Series finals. “I think I was trying to do what other people think is good, and that kind of strayed away from my personal strengths.

“At times, I threw a little bit of a different pitch mix or tried to manipulate the ball instead of just putting it out there and competing.”

Kauffmann is throwing a sinker -- which reaches the mid-90s after his velocity dropped slightly last year -- as well as a slider and an improved changeup. And he’s not trying to be perfect.

“Maybe it’s not the best-looking pitch, but if it plays off the other stuff and gets outs, that’s the ultimate judge,” Kauffmann said.

Most of the pitchers higher on Colorado's top prospects list are younger and lower in the system than Kauffmann, who is 24. But with his production matching his high Draft status (77th overall), Kauffmann is on the radar.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Kauffmann said, “and last year was a testament to that. It’s always a process of trying to get better. Whether I would have made a Major League debut last year or years from now, it’s just a matter of trying to get better every day.”