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
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“Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.”
The doyens of the baseball media will always tell you they have buried any vestige of youthful fandom. It’s a job. If pressed, they may confess that, okay, they have a rooting interest. They pull for two hour-and-thirty-seven-minute pitcher duels, or that their game story, 90 percent finished, isn’t blown up by a bad bullpen or a two-out rally.[i] And after watching a bevy of short-season bullpens over the years, I can empathize. There is not a worse feeling in the world then being a half-inning from the hotel bar—which closes in a half-hour because this is Tennessee on a Tuesday night—only to be immediately confronted by a four-pitch walk.
I root for predictable pitching rotations unmarred by rainouts,[ii] slow ground balls to short that elicit good home-to-first times, and this year, that they’d actually get the goddamn Hartford stadium built at some point.
We made you wait an extra day, so we put in an extra writeup.
Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State (2016 Draft Class) Lauer and the Kent State Flashes entered the MAC Tournament as the heavy favorites, however a loss to Western Michigan ended their run at post season play. Lauer started for the Flashes on Wednesday, going the distance with a complete-game shutout. He showed advanced pitchability throughout the game, and the stuff to match. While Lauer doesn’t currently have a pure out-pitch, his arsenal is still adequate. His fastball sat 93, hitting 94 a few times with a deceptive look from the left side, with some cutting action on it. His curveball will be an above-average pitch, showing 1-7 break across multiple planes at 76 mph. His slider is much improved since I last saw him in April; it usually sits 85-86 topping at 87 mph. His changeup also looked improved, and he threw it with much more confidence this game, featuring horizontal arm-side fade and a touch of tumble as it fell late at times.
Lauer won't be an ace, or even a number two in all likelihood, but what he is missing in ceiling he makes up for in floor. Even as someone who hates the term “high-floor player,” Lauer looks the part to be a fast-rising mid-to-back-end starter. He is as polished as anyone in the class currently, and if any of his off-speed pitches can improve into the plus range, his ceiling becomes even higher. His endurance has never been questioned, as his last two outings have been a no hitter at Bowling Green, and this shutout. His velocity held through all nine innings on Wednesday, and he maintained his delivery well. His delivery is extremely clean, but has a quirk with his left leg that needs to be timed correctly in order to hit his spots. But out of all of his outings that I have seen, he’s only lost his timing in a few. I would look for Lauer to go anywhere in the 25-40 range, but losing out on his ability to prove himself against post season competition is unfortunate. —Grant Jones
Notes on Raimel Tapia, Kevin Comer, Balbino Fuenmayor and more.
Raimel Tapia isn’t ever going to develop more than average game power. He has the bat speed to make up for his lack of strength, and he’ll grow into his frame more, but his swing mechanics create serious topspin on the ball, keeping it from carrying. Everything hit hard to the pull side has serious downward action. It is tough to clear the fence consistently that way. –Jeff Moore
Notes on every single player from the World roster
Ketel Marte, SS, Seattle Mariners – Marte had a solid if unspectacular showing during BP, spraying line drives and showing off the quick wrists that give him a chance for a plus hit tool when all is said and done. He picked up hits from both the left and right side of the plate, but unfortunately was thrown out twice; once on a caught stealing and once on a quality throw frome Michael Conforto. The upside doesn’t match some other names here, but he should be a starting middle-infielder someday, more than likely at second base.
Is the future Ranger or the future Rockie a better bet in fantasy?
Throughout the positional coverage on Baseball Prospectus, the Tale of the Tape feature has pitted two closely ranked players in a head-to-head brawl to see which is superior. We’ve offered some big-league, as well as minor-league, bouts. This will be the latter variety, as we compare Raimel Tapia vs. Nomar Mazara to see which one should be valued higher (in a vacuum) in standard dynasty leagues.
The Cespedes Barbecue boys take in two minor-league games, a couple highly-rated prospects, and a couple creepy mascots.
JakeMintzand JordanShusterman, the proprietors ofCespedes Family Barbecue, are taking a baseball road trip and chronicling their travels at Baseball Prospectus. You can find the series introduction and itineraryhere.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia and Brewers righty Damien Magnifico.
Hitter of the Night: Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (Asheville, A-): 3-3, 3 R, HR, 2 BB.
It’s been a rough start for Tapia, but games like this give us a glimpse of the kinds of things he’s capable of. His pure hitting ability can get him in trouble because of his aggressive approach, so any time he’s taking pitches and getting himself into hitter-friendly counts, it’s a recipe for him to do some damage.
Pitcher of the Night: Damien Magnifico, RHP, Brewers (Brevard County, A+): 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 5 K.
For a player with a big-time fastball, Magnifico’s strikeout numbers are remarkably low, though he is doing a much better job of limiting damage in his second go-round in the Florida State League.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including outfielders Victor Roache and Raimel Tapia.
Friday, May 2
Javier Baez, SS, Cubs (Iowa, AAA): 0-4, 2 K. When Baez homered in the I-Cubs’ final April game, we all hoped it would be the boost he needed to turn the page on a rough month. Instead, Baez is now 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts in May, including an 0-for-12 weekend that included eight punchouts. He’s not close right now.
The minor leaguers who made a major impression this spring.
LHP Julio Urias (Dodgers)
A 16-year-old pitching in the Midwest League can turn heads, and when that pitcher can pump a fastball in the 91-96 range in each start, backed up by multiple breaking ball looks and a quality changeup, the heads start spinning. I watched two spring starts from the now 17-year-old southpaw, and I came away knowing that this was the most polished young arm I have ever seen.