The crack of the bat when barrelled, the smell of my significant other (why am I craving Korean BBQ all of a sudden? I kid, I kid), watching a 6-4-3 double play being turned, and hugging the kids. These are all definitions of perfection. At least to me. They could be another person’s worst nightmare, hence the concept that perfection does not truly exist. It is but an abstraction of our minds. Now, there are things that are closer to perfection than others, but nothing can truly be perfect. We just decide what is and isn’t important. For fantasy baseball, those drafted in the first round are deemed as closest to perfection because of their elite production and having fewer flaws than the others. As you venture deeper into a draft, the imperfections rise like a pimple that hasn’t been cleaned for a few days. Some of those warts are deemed worse than others, which provides value and opportunities to be mined. Raimel Tapia of the Colorado Rockies is being drafted as the 231st overall player and 60th outfielder in NFBC drafts. There’s a reason why I’m writing him up. Let’s see if he’s treasure or trash.
Tapia is 27 years old, 6′ 3″, and 185 pounds. The Rockies signed him as an international free agent in 2010. Throughout his minor league career, the batting average was high, strikeout rate was low, but so was the walk rate. He had a high of 12 home runs and 26 stolen bases in 593 plate appearances during the 2015 Single-A season.
He made The Show in 2016 but for only 22 games. His first significant action in the bigs came the following year when he hit two home runs and stole five bases in 171 plate appearances with a .288/.329/.425 slash, 4.7% walk rate, and 21.1% strikeout rate. Not bad but it wasn’t good enough as the team decided to keep him in Triple-A for the 2018 season, where he flourished: .302/.352/.495 slash, 6.8% walk rate, 18% strikeout rate, 11 home runs, and 21 stolen bases in 473 plate appearances.
In 2019, he made it back to the majors and performed well: .275/.309/.415 slash, 4.7% walk rate, 22.4% strikeout rate, nine home runs, and 9 stolen bases in 447 plate appearances. It was sort of a jumbled season for Tapia because he hit all over the lineup: 33 games in the top third, 21 in the middle, and 83 down at the bottom.
He began the 2020 season in the bottom of the order again but, after 16 games, he became the leadoff hitter and didn’t look back. Granted, it’s only a 156 plate appearance sample size, but from that point on, Tapia had a .326/.370/.411 slash with seven doubles, one triple, one home run, and six stolen bases. The walk rate was 5.8% while the strikeout rate was 18.6%.
Entering the 2021 season, Tapia is slated to be the full-time leadoff hitter. That’s juicy for any team, but especially for one that plays half their games in Coors Field.
Now, as Grey pointed out, “there might be fear that PETA gets in his head with graphic photos of dead worms as he stares out the team bus window.” The groundball rate has been over 50% in the last two seasons. Yuck. It does allow his speed to play, so it’s not the worst thing in the world and his line drive rate was 22.8%, which was the 52nd-best mark in baseball last year. Despite the high ground ball rate, Steamer still projects him to hit 10 home runs.
Speaking of speed, Tapia’s sprint speed is 28.2 feet per second, which puts him in the 82nd percentile. That’s good, yo. So, ground balls may not be the worst thing for him as it gives him more opportunities to get on base. In addition, he posted a .369 OBP mark last season. The old saying is that “you can’t steal if you don’t get on first base” or something to that effect. He also posted a .321 average last season. The swinging strike rate was 8.3% while the overall contact rate was 83.4%.
Now, there are big home/road splits with Tapia, like all of the Rockies hitters. Over his career, he’s batting .337 at home and .237 on the road. But check out some of the counting stats:
Not too far off.
The encouraging thing when looking at Tapia’s splits is his competency against left-handed pitching. He has a career batting average of .284 versus lefties and a .285 average against righties. That’s huge because the NL West has plenty of left-handed pitchers but it also mitigates the risk of the Rockies platooning him.
Rudy has Tapia projected as the 46th outfielder. The market price is the 60th outfielder. Give me the leadoff hitter for the Rockies who won’t tank my batting average and will provide speed with a little pop. At a discount? Please and thank you. TREASURE