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Raimel Tapia quietly had a really good season

Raimel Tapia improved his average, on-base percentage and OPS, all while cutting down on strikeouts in 2020

Welcome to the 2020 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2020. 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.

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No. 9, Raimel Tapia: 0.6 rWAR

Back in July, I wrote about how Raimel Tapia had his eyes on winning the NL MVP award. Winning an MVP is a lofty goal for any player not named Mike Trout, especially for one who has bounced around between the minors and majors a lot in the last three years. The craziness of 2020, however, and the unprecedented 60 game season, turned long shots into realistic possibilities. To be the best, you have to think you’re the best. Tapia certainly had that confidence during Summer Camp.

Tapia doesn’t seem destined for an MVP award this season, but he did quietly have himself a very solid season. He set career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS on his way to cracking into the Rockies top ten in rWAR for 2020. By hitting .321, Tapia had the ninth best batting average in all of baseball, good for seventh in the National League. Joelle Milholm documented Tapia’s offseason work, including how he put on 15 pounds of muscle and worked on his plate discipline with coaches Dave Magadan and Jeff Salazar.

While Tapia is eligible for arbitration this offseason, the expectation is that he will still be with the Rockies in 2021, and in my opinion, should find his way to the top two in the batting order. He’s fast (more on that in a second), seems to be moving in the right direction with his on-base percentage, and would be a great guy to have at the top of the lineup if he could maintain an average near his 2020 mark. Add in the fact that Tapia’s strikeout rate dropped from 23 percent to 18 percent between 2019 and 2020, and you’re talking about a bat with all the qualities you’re looking for at the top of the lineup. (For more on how Tapia could fit in as a potential leadoff hitter, check out Milholm’s other article here.)

Now back to that speed…

This is probably the thing Tapia is most known for (if we’re not counting his hair), and his fast feet were fully on display for the club this year. He swiped eight bags, just one shy of his career high in 2019. He played 87 more games that year; it’s safe to assume an additional 87 in 2020 would have given him ample time to set a career high in stolen bases. On top of that, Tapia’s speed is a big plus for his defensive game as the expanse of the Coors Field outfield is daunting.

Tapia will be 27 when spring training starts next year, and the positive steps he took in 2020 make me very optimistic about his ability to be a solid presence in the Rockies lineup in the coming seasons. His home runs were down this year as he only went yard once in the club’s 60 games, but if we have to trade his lack of homers for an increased average, on-base percentage, and OPS, that’s a trade-off I’m willing to get behind.

Closing argument for Tapia: He’s got a track record of success in October. By getting a hit in the 2017 Wild Card game against Arizona, he’s hitting a clean 1.000 in his postseason career. I rest my case.