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Better Know Your Blue Jays 40-Man: Raimel Tapia

Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Raimel Tapia came to us from the Rockies and minor league player Adrian Pinto for Randal Grichuk back on March 24th. It was before the Zimmer trade. I wonder if the Blue Jays would have made this trade if they had done the Bradley Zimmer one first?

The Jays wanted a left-handed hitting outfielder, and they wanted to get rid of Randal’s contract. Colorado looks to be the right place for Grichuk. Maybe he will have a big year there. He is starting well (he always starts well), hitting .286/.412/.357 in his first 17 PA. Buck wants to know how many RBI? Two. Randal is a likable guy. I’m ok with him being likable somewhere else.

Pinto is 19. He was an international signing out of Venezuela. He had a terrific season in the Dominican Summer League last year, with a .360/.487/.534 line, 38 walks, 18 strikeouts and 41 stolen bases in 54 games. It seems like he had far too advanced skills for the level. I’m sure he won’t be getting a walk every 6 plate appearances in every level on the way up the ladder, but he’ll be someone to watch. He is number 22 on our prospects’ list. He is just 5’6”, so don’t expect big-time power. Matt wrote:

This placement feels (overly) aggressive given it’s based on one season where he was on the older side of the league, but there were strong statistical markers and mitigating circumstances. There’s probably more downside than upside risk in the near term, but more than anything it reflects a lack of more compelling options in the middle tier of the system.

Tapia, well, he’s another who was a top prospect. He was #49 on Baseball America’s top 100 list before the 2017 season, but who hasn’t turned that potential into numbers at the big league level.

Career Raimel has a .279/.324/.393 batting line, with 19 home runs and 45 steals, in 442 games. Last year he played 133 games, for the Rockies, with a .273/.327/.372 line, and 20 steals. That added up to a 1.0 bWAR.

His defence in LF has been great, 7.1 UZR/150 last year. He hasn’t played much CF in his MLB career, but he has plenty of speed for the position. As mentioned in the Zimmer profile, Statcast measured his sprint speed at 29.8 feet/second (no big deal, my car can do that), just .1 behind Zimmer and .2 behind Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton. So, if we need a Manfred Man, he’d be a heck of a choice.

Why hasn’t he had success with the bat? He doesn’t strike out much. When he hits the ball hard, he hits the ball hard. It would be nice if he would walk more, especially with his speed, but that would be a minor thing if he was hitting better.

The problem seems to be that he pounds the ball into the ground. Last year he had a 67.3% ground ball rate. For batters with 500 PA, he led the league in ground ball percentage by a mile. The next highest ground ball percentage was 55.5% for Eric Hosmer.

When I was young, baseball taught fast players to hit the ball into the ground, thinking they would beat out enough ground balls to be effective. There was no end to middle infielders who were taught to hit the ball into the ground and run hard. Generally, they would hit in the .270-280 range. They wouldn’t walk because they were just waiting for a pitch they could pound into the ground. Damaso Garcia was one example of these guys.

So, Tapia seems like a project for the Jays’ hitting coach (coaches, I guess, why do we have so many coaches?). When he does hit the ball in the air, he does hit it hard (see the video below). Jolly Olive talks about how Tapia hits the ball into the ground at an incredibly high rate. “When Tapia hits the ball in the air, he has much more success”.

I said I don’t understand why the Jays have both Zimmer and Tapia on the roster in the Zimmer profile. They seem like very similar players (and better versions of last year’s model, Jonathan Davis). Zimmer has more experience in CF. But they are both fast left-handed-hitting outfielders. Both were excellent prospects who haven’t shown why in the majors. Both play good defense.

PECOTA figured Tapia to 107 games and hit .279/.336/.404 with 13 steals. All that was before he was a Blue Jay. I doubt that he’ll get into that many games (though if Teoscar is injured, who knows).

Poll

If the over/under on Tapia’s games played is 100 I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Over
    (40 votes)
  • 78%
    Under
    (146 votes)
186 votes total Vote Now

Poll

At season’s end the player with the higher bWAR for the Jays will be

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Tapia
    (88 votes)
  • 49%
    Zimmer
    (85 votes)
173 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If the over/under on Tapia’s OPS is .720 I would take the

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Over
    (42 votes)
  • 75%
    Under
    (126 votes)
168 votes total Vote Now