A Conversation With Colorado Rockies 2019 Second-Rounder Aaron Schunk

Earlier this week we heard from Minnesota Twins 2019 second-round pick Matt Canterino about his draft-day experience and his introduction to professional baseball. Today, we’ll hear from Aaron Schunk, whom the Colorado Rockies tabbed eight picks later, with last year’s 62nd-overall selection. The now 22-year-old third baseman out of the University of Georgia saw his draft stock skyrocket during a junior campaign when he crushed 15 home runs while putting up a .973 OPS; in his two previous SEC seasons, the Atlanta native left the yard just four times.

A two-way player with the Bulldogs, Schunk went on to slash .306/.370/.503 with six home runs in 192 plate appearances with short-season Boise. Now exclusively a position player, he’s No. 8 on our Rockies Top Prospects list.


David Laurila: You were drafted one year ago. What have the last 12 months been like?

Aaron Schunk: “[The draft] was pretty cool. It was also a stressful night. Since then, the last 12 months have been a bit of a blur. All in all, this whole thing has been a dream come true for a kid who grew up watching the Atlanta Braves on a tube TV, begging his dad to watch John Smoltz and Chipper Jones. So it’s been amazing. Hopefully this will last a long time.”

Laurila: Draft day itself was stressful?

Schunk: “It was a little bit. For much of my baseball life I’ve been kind of an underdog-type player, and in my junior year I wanted to prove a lot of people wrong. I wanted to go out there and try to be a first-day guy. So knowing that my name had floated out there for the [first round] was a little stressful.”

Laurila: Did you have reason to believe you might go earlier than you did?

Schunk: “I didn’t really get a lot of info beforehand. I just knew that before the season I’d been floated out there as a fourth-to-seventh-round pick, and that was kind of my motivation. But on draft day, the only call that came before I [was drafted] was around 12 or 15 picks earlier. My agent called to say that a team was circling back — they wanted to clarify something — which kind of raised an eyebrow. We didn’t think it was anything too crazy serious, though.”

Laurila: Even so, I’m guessing you were pretty attentive when that pick came around.

Schunck: “Yeah, I held my breath a little bit. But my agent had said he was going to call me before anything happened, so I knew that when his number popped up on my phone was when I really needed to take a deep breath.”

Laurila: Can you say which team it was?

Schunk: “I think the team that circled back was the Giants. We had known the area scout for awhile, although I didn’t know that they were all that interested. They weren’t one of the teams that had shown a ton of interest.”

Laurila: Had the Rockies shown a lot of interest?

Schunk: “It was kind of behind-the-scenes interest. The area scout had actually reached out to me in 2016, which was my high school draft year. That was to ask me what my pitching schedule was.”

Laurila: You were a closer in college. Did you head into your junior year looking to get drafted as a pitcher or as a position player?

Schunk: “As a position player, although what I told teams was that I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to play professional baseball. Whatever I had to do to go forward, I was willing to do that.”

Laurila: Did any teams show interest in you as either a pitcher or two-way player?

Schunk: “There were a couple of teams that talked to me about being a two-way guy. A lot of the conversations, and fall meetings, were them asking me what I wanted to be drafted as. They mostly said they wanted me to be a position guy. I don’t think there were any teams that saw pitching as my only path.”

Laurila: Are you aware of any speculation that teams would want to convert you to a catcher?

Schunk: “I had seen that in some of the write-ups during my junior season, guys saying that body type-wise I might get converted to a catcher. I haven’t talked to the Rockies about it at all, so I don’t know if it was something that somebody was just throwing out there, or what. I played third in Boise, and I feel like I’m developing pretty well there.”

Laurila: Where did last year’s power surge come from? I’m sure you’ve been asked that a lot.

Schunk: “I have, and not just from outside people. It’s been from teammates and other players, too. It kind of came down to a mentality-type thing. Body-wise, as well. I spent a lot of time getting in good shape; I put on 15 pounds of muscle and lost some bad weight. Another thing that helped was getting to play on the Cape before my junior year. That was another checkmark on my baseball dreams list: playing summer ball in the Cape Cod League. That’s where the game really slowed down for me. I just felt really comfortable. It’s where I started to get really confident of getting my pitch and doing damage with it, and I carried that over to my junior year.

“Coach [Scott] Daeley, our hitting coach at Georgia talked to me. He said, ‘If you’re going to swing at a pitch you can’t do damage with… why are you going after it?’ He was like, ‘I’ll stand on that hill, and I’ll die on it. If it’s a pitch you can’t hammer, just take it.’ That really struck home with me. I’m naturally an aggressive hitter — I really like to go — but I put a lot of effort into waiting for that good pitch I could hammer. That’s kind of where the power surge came from.”

Laurila: How were you able to be so relaxed on the Cape? In some respects it’s a chill atmosphere, but it’s also a proving ground. As you said earlier, you had a lot to prove.

Schunk: “For me, it was being extremely thankful that I got to go. My dad told me, ‘Go up there and just have fun; just play the game like a little kid.’ That’s kind of how I’ve always played. People will ask me, ‘Do you ever feel like you’re burned out on the game?’ I’ll be like, ‘Man, baseball is my escape.’ It’s what I think about all the time. I dream about it. I can’t get enough of it. That’s why what is going on now is kind of killing me, slowly. I can’t wait to get back out there.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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