Fantasy Baseball

Heat Check: 2019 Fantasy Baseball Raimel Tapia

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A constant in any Fantasy sport, hitting on a player after the hype has faded is one of the most rewarding happenings for a Fantasy manager. Correctly identifying and rostering a Post-Hype Sleeper is a microcosm of Fantasy Baseball itself. The grind and resulting anxiety are real, regardless of scoring system.

Is the player finally coming through on the thousands of scouting reports that suggested Fantasy stardom at 19? Or is this another shooting star moment, tantalizing us in appearance but fading quickly into obscurity before we have a chance to see it truly shine

Enter Rockies Outfielder Raimel Tapia. A Baseball Prospectus Top-100 prospect in 2014, Tapia’s Fantasy potential has long made analysts and managers salivate. After lighting up Triple-A across parts of the past three seasons along with a good spring, Tapia made the 2019 opening day roster as the fourth outfielder. And he has made good on the opportunity. Tapia has slashed hard over the past month and continues to seize more playing time away from big money stalwart Ian Desmond.


So, what made us turtle head from our shell and buy Tapia’s heat? This Mother’s Day, Tapia fell just short of the cycle. But it isn’t what he did, it’s how the lefty did it: the damage was done against a lefty starter and a lefty reliever. Thus we Heat Check: 2019 Fantasy Baseball Raimel Tapia.

Heat Check: 2019 Fantasy Baseball Raimel Tapia

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LHB Raimel Tapia, LF/OF, Colorado Rockies

Embed from Getty Images

AGE: 25, 3rd MLB Season (Signed with Rockies as international FA in 2010)
5/13 Ownership: ESPN – 4.8%, Yahoo! – 11%, CBS – 21%

Standard Batting
Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2016 22 41 38 4 10 0 0 0 3 3 2 11 .263 .293 .263 .556 42
2017 70 171 160 27 46 12 2 2 16 5 8 36 .288 .329 .425 .754 84
2018 25 27 25 6 5 2 1 1 6 0 2 7 .200 .259 .480 .739 82
2019 37 105 99 11 31 8 4 5 18 1 6 31 .313 .352 .626 .979 138
4 Yr 154 344 322 48 92 22 7 8 43 9 18 85 .286 .327 .472 .799 95
162 162 362 339 50 97 23 7 8 45 9 19 89 .286 .327 .472 .799 95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2019.

2019: The Good

  • Tapia has more home runs (five) and triples (league-leading four) in 105 plate appearances this season than he did across the 239 plate appearances from 2016-2018. His 17 extra base hits give him an exciting 54.8% XBH rate. Keep in mind that one of those five home runs was of the inside-the-park variety. For perspective, Javy Baez currently leads the majors with 26 extra base hits across 172 plate appearances.
  • Tapia’s .313 batting average is Top-20. His .413 BAbip is fourth amongst outfielders with at least 90 plate appearances, behind only teammate David Dahl, Ben Gamel, and Cody Bellinger.
  • Tapia’s .626 slugging is sixth amongst outfielders with at least 90 plate appearances, amongst familiar names like Christian Yelich and George Springer. Tack on an impressive ISO of .313 that is 10th amongst outfielders, including Mike Trout (.280) and teammate Charlie Blackmon (.268).
  • His .405 wOBA ranks 8th and his 139 wRC+ ranks 16th,  amongst outfielders with at least 90 plate appearances.
  • His batted ball profile shows star improvement again. He has the fifth lowest soft hit rate at 10.3%. For perspective, a player currently being recommended highly in Franmil Reyes has a league low 9.4% soft hit%. Contrary to this, he has the 4th highest med hit rate at 57.4%, and has improved his hard hit rate once again to a current career high at 32.4%. That hard hit rate would rank tops amongst his fellow top-12 med hit% ers. He’s getting stronger and has the potential to continue to improve.

2019: The Bad

  • Tapia currently has the 17th worst BB rate at 5.7%, 18th worst K rate at 29.5%, and 11th worst K:BB ratio at 0.19, amongst outfielders with at least 90 plate appearances.
  • His aggressiveness as a whole has been an alarming storyline this season. He ranks in the bottom 20% of 104 outfielders with at least 90 plate appearances in O-Contact% and Contact% despite ranking 20th with a 37.1 O-Swing% and 10th with a 53.7 Swing%. Factor in the third worst SwStr% at 17.9%, and it becomes fair to question if the good is sustainable in light of the bad.

Raimel Fantasy potential

The starts, not splits, are the thing where we’ll catch the Fantasy potential of Raimel

For his career and in this current season, a major issue was whether Tapia could hit lefties well enough to sustain a productive full-time role. Below we see his career platoon splits.

Career Platoon Splits
I Split G GS PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+
vs RHP 126 252 35 69 18 6 5 31 9 4 14 55 .294 .335 .485 .820 114 .364 105
vs LHP 53 92 13 23 4 1 3 12 0 0 4 30 .264 .304 .437 .741 38 .370 86
vs RH Starter 104 44 245 33 61 15 4 4 23 8 3 15 62 .269 .316 .423 .738 96 .352 86
vs LH Starter 50 15 99 15 31 7 3 4 20 1 1 3 23 .326 .354 .589 .943 56 .397 133
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/14/2019.

Interestingly enough, he hits significantly better against lefty starters when separated from lefties as a whole. The sample size, as always, is small, but his progress in 2019 is undeniable. By taking a look at his 2019 stats alone, we see they play a large role in interpreting the career splits:

2019 Platoon Splits
Split G GS PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip tOPS+
vs RHP 34 76 7 21 7 3 3 12 1 5 19 .296 .342 .606 .948 .367 94
vs LHP 14 29 4 10 1 1 2 6 0 1 12 .357 .379 .679 1.058 .571 116
vs RH Starter 22 13 64 6 15 4 1 3 10 1 5 18 .254 .313 .508 .821 .316 70
vs LH Starter 15 6 41 5 16 4 3 2 8 0 1 13 .400 .415 .800 1.215 .560 146
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/14/2019.

 

His career stats against LH starters is buoyed by his success against them this season. The trend here seems to be that when he has a chance to start, he puts up enticing numbers. He is slashing .474/.524/.895 in his first at bat against starters and .260/.288/.620 the first time he sees a reliever, independent of handedness. That provides context as to why he’s off to a successful start in 2019: he’s starting more games and consequently delivering with consistency. Hopefully Bud Black and his staff have taken notice.

Platoon Problems: Is Tapia Doing Enough to Usurp Ian Desmond’s Expensive Throne?

Blocking Tapia from a full-time role is Ian Desmond’s lingering presence on the 25 man roster. Desmond had an abysmal and league leading 62% ground ball rate in 2018, highest in the Majors. Combine this with his .279 BAbip, and you have to question how far his bat skills have fallen; he played the majority of games at Coors field and still produced these numbers. Scary.

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SAT Analogy time! Ian Desmond and his contract are to Raimel Tapia’s playing time as that Iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean were to the Titanic. Sinking playing time for our heat check, Desmond is locked into too much money for manager Bud Black to sit him. He’s owed a minimum of $38mil over this and the next two seasons with a $2mil club buyout for 2022. Major takeaway: too much money to find a buyer or DFA/release.

But wait! A new development in playing time has emerged thanks to Tapia’s torrid start to 2019. Since the calendar turned to May, Tapia has started seven of nine games. Last week was especially encouraging, with Tapia drawing starts against Lefties Madison Baumgarner and Derek Holland. He went 5/9 with two doubles in those back to back starts.

Tapia did sit the following two starts against Padres lefties Eric Lauer and Joey Luchessi. But he responded emphatically with the aforementioned near cycle against lefty Nick Margevicius and a lefty reliever, following a triple short of the cycle.

During this May stretch, we have seen David Dahl platoon with Desmond more and more. Seize the day Raimel!

Heat Check: If the Speed Comes, then We Are Intrigued

Tapia’s greatest asset outside of Coors Field is the signature speed that led scouts to love him from the start. Another analogy if I may? Sourcing consistent stolen bases from hitters have become as maddening as identifying saves sources from relievers. You have your stalwarts, but hitting on a multiple category contributor, if possible, is what can make your team great.

The Rockies rank 11th in the Majors and 4th in the NL with 0.65 steal attempt/game. If Tapia, who currently is 1 for 3 in stolen base attempts, is allowed to capitalize on the sprint speed (28.4 ft/sec) he demonstrated on his inside-the-park HR, then the potential is there for a solid season-long contributor with an added niche.

A fair projection for Tapia, if locked in full time? Batting sixth or seventh (15/19 starts this season) in this lineup is rewarding. He’s currently slashing .406/.457/.875 with three doubles and triples, and two home runs this season from the sixth spot across 35 plate appearances. Think Ketel Marte‘s role and general stat potential, except with Jose Martinez‘s batting average and OBP (because he’s aided by Coors Field), and under the umbrella of Sterling Marte’s good (some power, high triples, and steals) and not so good qualities (aggressiveness/high strikeouts/low walks/cold periods).

In mixed leagues:

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  • NL-Only: ADD. If you play NL-only, you have a high average hit machine whose counting stats can be managed from a fantasy perspective. You can always play him at Coors, and it would seem you don’t have to care about handedness.
  • 10 Team: Watchlist or Bench Stash, but RIDE OR DIE. Remember, the uncertainty of the role means you’re willing to potentially burn the roster spot for a few weeks. If he continues to play against lefties, and perform, you snatched up an OF-4 for the long run. The power may level out, but the potential for stolen bases could even out in the long term.
  • 12 Team: A low-risk, med-reward. If you make the move, continue to monitor Bud Black’s usage against Lefties. He’s either a stash and sees that you don’t want to fall to another manager, or someone to plug and play now with hopes the playing time keeps coming. I personally find a Rockies outfielder batting sixth five times a week worth it, but it depends on your roster construct.
  • 14+ Team: Do it. Now.
  • Dynasty: The Rockies always seem to have these names that never quite get the full opportunity over time. If they continue to give starts to Desmond at the cost of Tapia, then he will continue to frustrate over the next two seasons.

Now go get this dude before others feel the heat. Seriously, don’t let the ownership percentages fool you. Go get him con mucho swagger.


Check out the rest of our 2019 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

About Samir Qurashi

Samir Qurashi is from the Bay. He thinks football is a good time. You can get at him with any fantasy football questions on the tweeter: @FSPsamir and by electronica: ssq.FSP@gmail.com. He remains unspooked.

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