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Karl Kauffmann Ready To Launch Pro Career



At long last, 23-year-old righthander Karl Kauffmann can launch his professional career.

The Rockies drafted Kauffmann as a 2019 supplemental second-rounder out of Michigan. But because he threw 130.2 collegiate innings that year, including crucial frames in the College World Series, the Rockies opted not to pitch him that summer.

Colorado sent the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Kauffmann to Low-A Asheville, where he could start to form some relationships—particularly with pitching coach Mark Brewer—throw a few bullpen sessions and rest and familiarize himself with the area where the Rockies envisioned Kauffmann would begin his career in 2020.

But then the coronavirus pandemic intervened. With the 2020 minor league season canceled, Kauffmann was at the alternate training site in Denver last year, but when he developed shoulder tightness, the Rockies decided to send him home since getting him game-ready was irrelevant.

Kauffmann is scheduled to begin the season at High-A Spokane after showing good stuff, an advanced feel for pitching and ultra competitiveness in spring training.

He does a good job of keeping the ball down. He throws a 90-95 mph fastball that sits at 93 to both sides of the plate and will pitch inside. He throws two sliders at 83-85 mph, a shorter-breaking one he’ll throw for strikes and one he buries as a swing-and-miss pitch that he commands well.

His developing changeup should progress quickly, according to Rockies farm director Zach Wilson, because of Kauffmann’s exceptional aptitude, moxie and competitive zeal.

Currently, Wilson said Kauffmann “can basically throw strikes at will.”

Kauffmann's command of his slider is very good for this point in his career, and ultimately, Wilson said, his overall command will be above-average once he improves his command in to lefthanders on his glove side.

“But he’s got a simple delivery, it’s extremely repeatable,” Wilson said. “And he’s got a good arm action. And when you put those three things together, he’s going to be able to get the command to where it needs to be through experience and innings.”

ROCKY ROADS

— Righthander Mike Nikorak, who will have his second Tommy John surgery in May, decided to retire. The Rockies drafted Nikorak 27th overall in 2015 out of Stroudsburg (Pa.) High and signed him for an over-slot $2.3 million. Nikorak had his first TJ in April 2017 and missed that entire season. Command issues plagued him throughout his career, which totaled 68.1 innings over four seasons. He went 1-4, 6.98 in 40 games (17 starts), and averaged 7.5 strikeouts and 10.8 walks per nine innings.

— Righthander Alexander Martinez, 24, who was going to be the closer at High-A Spokane, is scheduled to have Tommy John surgery by mid May. In 2019 at Low-A Asheville, Martinez went 6-4, 2.48 with 14 saves in 52 games and in 58 innings averaged 10.7 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings.

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