Overlooked among the wave of September callups, Raimel Tapia is getting a chance to prove he should be a part of a young Rockies team eyeing a playoff run in 2017. Tapia has been a part of the Futures game two years in a row, playing for the World team. He went 2-for-3 and scored a run in last year's game. This year he recorded a double, two RBI and two runs scored in the star-studded game. Tapia has a unique approach that puts opposing defenses on edge and possesses the raw tools to be a breakout candidate in the coming season.
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Tapia has been labeled a top 100 prospect and is the organization's #4 prospect according to MLB.com. He hasn't garnered nearly the attention of fellow Brendan Rogers, who is yet to debut. Tapia has just a 1% ownership level in spite of his hot hitting over the past week. The 22-year-old is hard-pressed to earn a starting job at the moment, but could stay on the roster permanently if he builds on his successful 2016. Tapia has posted a .328/.361/.458 slash line between Double-A and Triple-A. His speed and above-average defense make him more desirable. His 89 steals since 2014 promise to give the Rockies an element they are currently lacking. The team is 10th in the NL in steals this year, with a lackluster 61/33 SB/CS rate.
Tapia has just 21 Major League at-bats at the time of this writing, but so far he has shown a knack for making contact even on difficult pitches. He is swinging far more at pitches outside the zone, yet less at pitches inside the zone compared to league averages. As a result, he has an elevated 82.6% O-Contact%. When he does swing, he is making contact 86.4% of the time and is above average at swings in the zone as well. Combine that with a rather low 6.6% SwStr ratio and he is putting a lot of balls in play. Sample size is obviously a consideration here, but is jives with his track record. Over six seasons in the minors, Tapia never posted a K% above 20% and only posted a BB% above eight once.
So far, he has cut his strikeout rate from 18% to 11% this year. His wide stance and long swing for a non-power hitter have been reduced as he progresses through the various levels. He doesn't profile as a prototypical leadoff hitter despite his speed. If he wants to work his way toward the top of the lineup in any way, ideally the two spot, he will need to increase the walk rate. He was at a 1.8% in 104 Triple-A at-bats before getting the call this year.
One thing Tapia doesn't have is power. His highest season output came last year in A+ ball with 12 HR in 593 at-bats. He has still posted fairly good slugging percentages though, staying above a .450 SLG the past three seasons. His length and compact stroke give him decent gap power. Tapia could grow into a 15-20 HR threat eventually, but as it is he has already shown the ability to drive in runs. Tapia finished with 72 and 79 RBI the past two years respectively.
The only obstacle to Tapia's fantasy relevance is a clear path to playing time. David Dahl looks like he will be a fixture in the Rockies outfield, CarGo has another year on his contract and Charlie Blackmon will be eligible for arbitration, so it's unlikely any of them will be leaving the Mile High city soon. Still, Tapia is just an injury away from having the chance to become an offensive force on a loaded lineup playing in Coors Field. Tapia has the tools and is very close to getting his opportunity.
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