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Raimel Tapia finally gets a lot of playing time, remains a mystery

It’s still not clear if he can hit major league pitching

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Welcome to the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2019. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 47, Raimel Tapia, -0.9 rWAR

Raimel Tapia was one of the most polarizing prospects in recent memory. Prior to the 2014 season, the Purple Row community voted Tapia as the number 16 PuRP in the system, right behind Jason Aquino and ahead of Sam Moll. Drew Creasman, writing for Purple Row at the time, was more or less the only one around here to latch on to his potential. Other national writers took note though, too. In that same round of prospect evaluation, Baseball Prospectus ranked Tapia the Rockies third best prospect, which was much higher than other outlets. He even cracked their top 101 list. Over time, evaluators began to agree that Tapia was a legitimate top 100 guy. But a question continued to linger: Will be he able to hit major league pitching?

Six years later, that question remains. From 2016 to 2018, Tapia saw some major league action off and on, to pretty lackluster results — .274/.315/.404 in a total of 239 plate appearances (it still blows my mind Tapia only got 27 PAs in 2018). 2019 differed in that 1) he was out of options so the Rockies had to keep him on the active roster all season, and 2) he got a decent amount of playing time because of it.

The results were similarly lackluster, which is why we’re writing this article in early October rather than early November. Tapia hit. 275/.309/.415 in 447 plate appearances, nearly double the number he got in the previous three seasons. If you wanted to shop around for the best adjusted batting line, it would be DRC+’s 80 — 20 percent below league average (wRC+ had him at 73, OPS+ 74). He hit a couple of pinch hit grand slams, but that’s not really something you can put on your résumé under “Skills.”

Tapia did seem to hold his own in the outfield, which was nice to see. Statcast’s Outs Above Average had him in the 67th percentile, which is above average and bordering on the “very good.” That’s a positive, but he would really need to hit better to justify a starting spot.

From my perspective, it’s not clear where Tapia stands going into 2019. The outfielder in his way for much of the beginning of the season was Ian Desmond. If the Rockies choose to deploy Desmond in a platoon role, Tapia might sound like a natural partner — until you realize Tapia didn’t hit righties all that much better than Desmond (.274/.312/.422).

And yet, Nick Groke of The Athletic is writing as if Tapia is being penciled in as the starting left fielder in 2020. While I don’t dislike the idea, it doesn’t give me confidence. That’s because, nearly 7 years after Tapia broke into the prospect scene with his polarizing batting stance, I still don’t know if he can hit major league pitching.