With all the talk surrounding other more exciting young Rockies players in Sam Hilliard, Garrett Hampson, and Brendan Rodgers, we often forget about Raimel Tapia. To finish off 2020, he sneakily provided a quality batting average, OBP, and steals for Raimel Tapia, the underrated Rockies hitter. Typically, we fade players providing little power with some speed. However, Tapia can provide some sneaky OBP and batting average, especially as the primary leadoff hitter for most of the 2020 season. As always, we dig into what happened in 2020, batted ball profile, plate discipline, Statcast data, and more to figure out what to expect moving forward for Raimel Tapia, the underrated Rockies outfielder.
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Raimel Tapia the Underrated Rockies Hitter
What Happened in 2020?
So what happened in 2020 with Raimel Tapia, the underrated Rockies outfielder? Tapia reached career highs in batting average and OBP and almost tied his career-high in steals. In 2019, he bounced around in the batting order, but in 2020, he finished the season strong hitting in the leadoff role. Tapia finished with one home run, 26 runs, 17 RBI, and eight steals with a triple slash of .321/.369/.402. He also totaled a 6.8% walk rate and an 18.4% strikeout rate.
Meanwhile, in 2019, he totaled nine home runs, 54 runs, 44 RBI, and nine steals while slashing .275/.309/.415. The walk rate and strikeout rate improved with a 4.7% walk rate and a 22.4% strikeout rate. For context, Tapia’s 2020 production came in 46% of the plate appearances in 2019. We noticed the increased walk rate and lowered strikeout rate, which showed up with the higher OBP in 2020. Tapia typically displayed a high BABIP, which proved factual once again with a .392 BABIP in 2020 compared to a .341 BABIP in 2019. After seeing that, it makes sense to see the higher batting average in 2020.
Batted Ball Profile
Outside of speed, one of Tapia’s better skills included his hit tool, evidenced by his line drive rates. Tapia finished with a 22.8% line drive rate compared to a 24.2% career line drive rate. On the flip side, Tapia’s ground ball rate increased compared to 2019 and his career. He logged a 55.7% ground ball rate in 2020, up from a 51.7% ground ball rate in 2019, and above his career 49.5% ground ball rate. Although the ground ball rate looks concerning, it’s not unusual to see a fast player log a higher ground ball rate. Also, we can live with the ground ball rate, assuming that his line drive holds steady.
With little to no power, unsurprisingly, Tapia finished with a 21.5% fly-ball rate and a 19.3% pull rate. However, both dropped in comparison to a 25.8% fly-ball rate and a 35% pull rate in 2019. Since power isn’t his strength, Tapia doesn’t fall into the category of a power hitter with a pull heavy and fly ball profile. With more plate appearances, these numbers could fluctuate back to his career rates.
In terms of plate discipline, Raimel Tapia, the underrated Rockies hitter, swung less across the board. On the flip side, Tapia made more contact overall, inside and outside the zone. His swinging-strike rate also dropped significantly from a 14.6% swinging-strike rate in 2019 to an 8.3% swinging-strike rate in 2020. Those plate discipline changes directly translate to the improved walk rate and strikeout rate compared to 2019. Later on, we discuss swing adjustments for Tapia, and that possibly contributed to improvements in patience and plate discipline.
Since Tapia provides little to no power, it’s not surprising that his Statcast data ranks low in terms of average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate. In 2020, Tapia finished with an 85.3 mph average exit velocity (6th percentile), 30% hard-hit rate (12th percentile), and a 2% barrel rate (6th percentile). Even his expected stats didn’t rank highly with a .252 xBA (52nd percentile), .330 xSLG (7th percentile), and .286 xwOBA (18th percentile).
Again, we don’t expect the power and quality of contact for Tapia to rank highly, so it falls in line with the expectations. To further back up the lack of home run power, Tapia finished with an 88.4 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 247), tied with Hanser Alberto. The only Statcast metric that ranks highly includes sprint speed, where Tapia ranks in the 82nd percentile, which again falls in line with providing some steals.
When comparing his 2019 and 2020 Statcast data, the percentile rankings dropped slightly in 2020. Across the board, Tapia’s barrel rate, average exit velocity, and hard-hit rate finished below his 2019 numbers, and thus the percentile rankings decreased as well. Similarly, Tapia logged a 90 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 221) that ranked higher than his 2020 numbers. Over a full season, maybe his 2020 numbers even out closer to his 2019 numbers.
Added Muscle & Swing Adjustment Narrative
Next, we mention a highly analytic narrative (kidding) with the added muscle for Raimel Tapia, the Rockies underrated outfielder. In March of 2020, Tapia gained about 15-20 pounds and adjusted his diet and training program. As I mentioned in the staff roundtable about breakout hitters we trust, I referenced Luke Voit and the best shape of his life narrative.
When we observe improved results paired with improved body composition, I tend to take notice. Thus with career bests or near career bests in 2020, Tapia provides an intriguing profile overall. Hopefully, with more plate appearances, the power improves as well with the added muscle for Tapia. For instance, maybe he breaks the double-digit home run range in the future.
As noted by Thomas Harding, who covers the Rockies for MLB.com, Tapia adjusted his swing in Spring Training since he struggled with his timing. Tapia’s swing typically involves an open stance with a slight leg kick and toe-tap. However, in Spring Training, he worked with their hitting coach to improve his timing even though his strengths lie with his bat to ball skills. A couple of narratives to note and monitor into the offseason.
Splits – Raimel Tapia the Underrated Rockies Hitter
As a lefty hitter, we check into his splits against southpaws. With an above-average hit tool, Tapia hits well against both lefties and righties, particularly in 2020 and across his career. Against lefties in 2020, he finished with six runs, zero home runs, eight RBI, and one steal with a triple slash of .364/.390/.473.
On the flip side, against righties, Tapia logged 20 runs, one home run, nine RBI, and seven steals while slashing .302/.361/.372. It’s important to mention that Tapia faced lefties in 29% of his plate appearances in 2020. Although he compiled more counting stats against righties, Tapia notched a higher triple slash against lefties.
When looking at Tapia’s career numbers against lefties and righties, he has an almost identical .284 batting average against lefties and .285 batting average against righties. Similar to his 2020 stats, Tapia totaled fewer counting stats across his career against lefties with four home runs, 26 runs, 23 RBI, and two steals. In his career against righties, Tapia logged nine home runs, 91 runs, 63 RBI, and 23 steals. The table above shows the counting stats and batting average against lefties and righties for Tapia. Overall, the main takeaway here involves no drastic splits with Raimel Tapia, the underrated Rockies outfielder.
2021 Outlook – Raimel Tapia the Underrated Rockies Hitter
Reasons for Optimism – Quality batting average, on-base skills, minimal platoon splits, potential lead-off role, and double-digit steal potential
What should we expect in 2021 for Raimel Tapia, the underrated Rockies outfielder? According to Roster Resource, Tapia projects as their leadoff hitter, and hopefully, that’s where he bats for the majority of the season moving forward. Tapia provides quality on-base skills, minimal platoon splits, and some speed.
In his final 150 plate appearances, Tapia batted in the leadoff spot. He finished with one home run, 17 runs, 11 RBI, and six steals with a triple slash of .324/.351/.410. However, in his first 56 plate appearances in 2020, Tapia often batted in the bottom third of the Rockies lineup. During his first 56 PA, Tapia finished with zero home runs, nine runs, six RBI, and two steals while slashing .311/.418/.378. Reasons for optimism include the quality batting average, OBP, potential leadoff role, and double-digit steal upside.
Taps it wayyyy over the wall. That's how you set the tone! 🦀 pic.twitter.com/SsaU21dJpd
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 5, 2020
Reasons for Concern – Playing time and lack of power
In the early mock drafts, Tapia averaged a 248 ADP with a high pick of 132 and a low pick of 362, so a pretty wide range. Based on those mock drafts, Tapia ranks as the 55th outfielder drafted. Coming into 2020, Tapia held a 472 NFBC ADP and a 527 Fantrax ADP, meaning drafters took notice, and it reflected in the mock draft ADP. Assuming Tapia holds onto the leadoff spot for the Rockies, we expect Raimel Tapia, the underrated Rockies outfielder, to continue to produce heading in 2021.
However, the risks involve the Rockies management and how they handle his usage. Outside of Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and Nolan Arenado, some of the Rockies hitters present playing time risks. Another concern includes the lack of power even though it comes with a high batting average and OBP with some steals. Tapia isn’t a league winner by any means, but keep him in mind as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
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