What if a hitter swung at literally every pitch he saw?
No batter should swing at every pitch they see. That would be preposterous. Relatively few batters should swing even half the time. For most guys, patience and plate discipline are hard-won, valuable skills, the backbone of a successful approach. It would be so cool, though, if we could find a player who should swing at everything.
Imagine such a player. He’d have to be so prone to strikeouts that he could trade any chance of walks for the extra hacks and chances to make contact. He’d also need to have good power, to make up for his inevitably tepid on-base percentage. He’d also have to be unbelievably good at hitting pitchers’ pitches, even ones pretty far outside the strike zone, and hitting them hard—or at least, he’d need to be close to as good at that as he was at hitting pitches within the traditional hitting zone.
The Situation: The Rockies don't really need another outfielder on the roster. Their best outfield prospect, David Dahl, is already up and raking, and Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez have acquitted themselves well for the purple and black in 2016. But the calendar has turned to September, and the Rockies don't even merit a spot “in the hunt” on wild card race graphics, so why not give Raimel Tapia and his quirky swing a look-see.
The Background: A low-six figure signing for the Rockies out of the Dominican in 2010, Tapia quite literally has hit his way to the majors. Once stateside he never hit lower than .305 at any minor-league stop and has been a mainstay on BP prospect lists since Jason Parks first laid his lusty eyes on him on the backfields. The main question around the prospect was if his hyper-aggressive approach and unorthodox swing mechanics would succeed against better pitching. The returns from his stints in Hartford and Albuquerque are encouraging and have earned the 22-year-old a big-league cup of coffee
The Rockies might have picked the worst time to get hot this year, but some nifty GMing means their outlook is better than it has been in some time.
The long season plays cruel tricks on every team, and if it sometimes gives great and wonderful things (as it did to the 2007 Rockies, flinging a merely good team into the World Series), it usually comes to collect on that advance later on. This summer, Father Baseball pointed the Rockies in precisely the wrong direction in the second half of July. A mediocre team without a real chance to contend in the NL this year, the Rockies got hot at just the wrong time—coming out of the All-Star break with 14 wins in 19 games—and made no trades before the deadline. In D.J. LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez, and Charlie Blackmon, Colorado has three players whose long-term value is dubious, and who will be free agents by the end of 2018 (Gonzalez after 2017), but who would have had real trade value in this market. At least one of those guys should be somewhere else right now. Heck, after the dust settled and Will Smith commanded such a significant price, Jeff Bridich looked a little less than brilliant even for leaving Jake McGee’s market unplumbed.
The Situation: Tyler Chatwood has gone on the disabled list with a lower back strain and the Rockies are calling up another big-time arm, Jeff Hoffman, to fill the void.
Background: Originally from upstate New York, Hoffman went undrafted out of high school because teams were scared away by a commitment to East Carolina and large bonus demands. His first two years on campus were unspectacular but he ventured to the Cape the summer before his Junior year and took a major step forward, striking out 33 in just 24 1/3 innings for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. Hoffman continued to improve during his draft year (2014) showing big-time velocity and feel for the breaking ball before succumbing to forearm tightness and eventually Tommy John in May. Teams continued to salivate over his potential and despite being on the shelf, the Toronto Blue Jays took him with their first of two picks in the first round. Almost exactly a year later, Hoffman made his debut in the Florida State League and was quickly promoted to Double-A. The Blue Jays then included him in the Troy Tulowitzki deal and Hoffman got to take his talents to the Rockies. Fast forward to 2016, fresh off a Futures Game appearance and in the midst of striking out 124 in 118 innings Hoffman gets the call and his first assignment is the Chicago Cubs.
The Situation: Brandon Barnes isn’t very good. The Rockies had a guy in Triple-A with an OPS above 1.400. Colorado will rectify the situation by sending Barnes out of town and calling up that prospect. His name is David Dahl.
Background: Dahl was a standout in high school, putting up big numbers at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, performing well at showcase events, and earning comparisons to Dustin Ackley. At the time, that was a compliment. The Rockies swooped him up with the tenth pick of the 2012 MLB Draft, and after hitting .379 in short-season Grand Junction, expectations were huge for his first professional season. Unfortunately, 2013 was a lost season, as he was suspended for missing a flight, and then missed all but ten games after tearing a hamstring. He came back strong in 2014 with a .827 OPS in stops at Asheville and Modesto. 2015 was another tough season for the young outfielder, as he suffered a ruptured spleen after a collision in the outfield, and posted a pedestrian .278/.304/.417 line in Double-A New Britain. Once again, Dahl bounced back beautifully, hitting .278 with 13 homers in Hartford, and then crushing Triple-A pitching to a borderline unrealistic tune of .484/.529/.887 in Albuquerque before earning his call-up.
Troy Tulowitzki is still searching for his missing production 11 months after leaving Coors Field.
Troy Tulowitzki returned to Coors Field last night for the first time as a visiting player, facing the Rockies nearly 11 months after the blockbuster trade that sent the five-time All-Star shortstop from Colorado to Toronto. Because the Blue Jays went 31-10 with Tulowitzki in their lineup last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 1993 the trade was immediately labeled a success, but Tulowitzki didn’t actually play all that well in those 41 games and his contract meant neither team involved was viewing the deal as strictly a short-term move. Tulowitzki’s mediocre performance has continued this season, which has to be worrisome for the Blue Jays given that he’s 31 years old and signed through 2020 at an average annual salary of around $20 million.
When the Blue Jays acquired Tulowitzki they did so knowing that his raw hitting numbers would decline because that’s just how things work with Rockies hitters. Coors Field undeniably boosts offense, often to extreme degrees, and hitters departing the Rockies can generally be counted on to post less gaudy raw numbers in their new homes. However, projecting how Rockies hitters will fare elsewhere can be tricky due to a potential “hangover” effect playing home games at altitude can have on a player’s performance in road games. In other words, it’s not always as simple as taking a longtime Rockies hitter’s road numbers and penciling those in as his overall numbers, because the road numbers might be underrepresenting his true, non-Coors Field talent level.
Tulowitzki spent the first decade of his career calling Coors Field home and took full advantage, hitting .321/.394/.558 in 526 games there compared to .276/.349/.468 in 522 road games. Even with a hangover effect possibly dragging them down those road numbers alone would have made Tulowitzki the best-hitting shortstop in baseball from 2006-2015, so the Blue Jays gladly would have signed up for .276/.349/.468. Instead he’s hit just .226/.306/.405 in 95 games following the trade, including .214/.294/.423 in 54 games this year. Once the king of good-hitting shortstops, his .717 OPS ranks 15th among the 26 players who’ve logged at least 50 games at the position this season and Tulowitzki is the third-oldest player in that group. His post-trade fall is magnified even further by the emergence of a potentially historic group of young shortstops.