SAL notes: Rockies' Lavigne remains patient

Tourists first baseman rounding out profile while racking up walks

New Hampshire native Grant Lavinge leads the South Atlantic League with 28 walks in 41 games for Asheville. (Marc Hunt/Asheville Tourists)

By Bill Ballew / Special to MiLB.com | May 24, 2019 11:00 AM

The list of hitters drafted out of high school from New Hampshire who went on to play in the Major Leagues is not a lengthy one. In fact, no prep position player from the Granite State has achieved that feat in the game's storied history.

Class A Asheville's Grant Lavigne intends to change that trend. In 2018, the first baseman became the highest-drafted high school position player hailing from New Hampshire when Colorado selected him with the 42nd overall pick. He signed shortly thereafter, fulfilling a major step toward the goal he began working toward in grade school.

"Growing up, starting around the time I was 6, baseball was always my favorite sport," the 19-year-old said. "I practiced almost every day, even though growing up in New Hampshire it can be tough, because you're inside the entire winter and some of the spring. It can be hard to get your reps in, but they have facilities. I've been prioritizing baseball since I was 13."

Lavigne developed a smooth and powerful left-handed stroke that allowed him to bat higher than .400 in each of his four seasons at Bedford High School. Despite his success, it would have been easy for him to become frustrated, as evidenced by his 30 walks in 90 at-bats during his senior year. Instead, Lavigne refused to chase bad pitches and took the free base that allowed his teammates to contribute the big hits.

"High school taught me to have a patient approach," said the Rockies' No. 4 prospect. "I'm up there thinking, 'Yes, yes, no,' so that I'm ready if they make a mistake. If they throw that mistake, I have to be ready to crush it. In high school they were always trying to work around me, but I had to be ready to hit when they made a mistake."

Lavigne also honed his skills by playing three summers in a wood-bat league in New England as well as for Northeast Baseball, a travel organization that went to week-long tournaments throughout the South. Opposing teams and pitchers were willing to challenge Lavigne in those games, which showed scouts just how potent his production could be with his raw power and impressive bat speed. He also displayed an advanced approach by hitting the ball to all fields instead of trying to pull most pitches.

The first baseman committed to play college baseball at Wake Forest before the Rockies made him one of the organization's building blocks in the 2018 Draft. He emerged as a cornerstone in the middle of the Grand Junction lineup, leading the Pioneer League with a .477 on-base percentage and placing third with a .996 OPS. He also posted a .350 batting average with 13 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 38 RBIs in 59 games.

2019 MiLB include

"I just tried to carry over my approach from high school ball to pro ball," Lavigne said. "Obviously, the pitching was vastly different in the Pioneer League, but I kept the same approach as I did in high school ball and I did really well. My approach is to be aggressive early in the count and try to get a pitch I can drive. I'm confident that even if I don't get my pitch early, I'll get it at some point."

In high school, Lavigne was a fan of Cincinnati's Joey Votto, a disciplined batter who hits for power and average while also getting on base consistently. Votto is a six-time All-Star and considered to be one of the top defensive players at his position, which is a distinction Lavigne wants to achieve as well.

"I spent a lot of this past offseason trying to be quick on my feet around the bag and improving my glovework," Lavigne said. "I don't want to be a guy who's just a hitter. I want to be an all-around player so that I can be a Gold Glover one day."

Lavigne is working on all aspects of his game with the Tourists in an early-season stint that has included some ups and downs. Through his first 41 games, he had a .341 on-base percentage, thanks to a South Atlantic League-high 28 walks, to go with a .333 slugging percentage and .213 batting average. He also has contributed eight doubles, three home runs and 20 RBIs while making the mental adjustments associated with playing his first full season of professional baseball.

"I won't set numerical goals," Lavigne said. "I just care about hitting the ball hard and having quality at-bats. I'm not trying to yank the ball out of the stadium. I'm focusing on staying through the ball and hitting it hard."

In brief

Double duty: West Virginia infielder Nick Rodriguez pitched the ninth inning on May 21 and tossed a scoreless frame despite allowing two hits. Rodriguez, who had not pitched since playing at John F. Kennedy High School in California, also hit his first home run in the bottom of the inning. Technically, he became the first pitcher to go deep in a SAL game since at least 2005.

Greensboro's hopping: Delmarva continues to roll in the Northern Division with a 34-10 record, but the Grasshoppers are in hot pursuit. Greensboro swept a five-game series over Lakewood with a 2-1 win on May 20 before traveling to West Virginia and posting a 10-7 victory on Tuesday and a 17-7 triumph on Wednesday. The Hoppers have won 24 of their last 30 contests and are in second place with a 31-14 mark.

Hot, hot, hot: Rome's Trey Harris extended his hitting streak to 10 games on May 22; he has 18 hits in his 41 at-bats during that stretch. The University of Missouri product leads the SAL with a .387 batting average, .457 on-base percentage and .650 slugging percentage. He also is first on the circuit with 63 hits and 106 total bases, ranks second with 40 RBIs and is tied for second with 23 extra-base hits and four triples.

Bill Ballew is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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