Colorado Rockies: Raimel Tapia is part of the future, not the present
By Kevin Henry
When Charlie Blackmon needed an off day on Friday after suffering through a 1-for-18 slump over his last five games, the Colorado Rockies shuffled their lineup by moving Ian Desmond to center field while Gerardo Parra took over left field duties.
Parra in left field was not a surprise. Moving Desmond to center for the series opener against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field, however, was a bit of a surprise. It marks the first time that Desmond has played center field since he was signed by the Rockies in the offseason.
One of the biggest questions raised out of the outfield and lineup shuffle is in regards to Raimel Tapia. The 23-year-old outfielder has started five games for the Rockies in center field this season. However, the left-handed-hitting Tapia did not get the start on Friday with southpaw Clayton Richard on the hill for the Padres.
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Desmond starting over Tapia in center field makes sense if you’re playing the right-hander at the plate (Desmond) against the left-hander on the mound (Richard) strategy. But there could be a little more behind the scenes at play here.
In Colorado’s 8-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, Tapia drew the start in left field and went 2-for-4 with a run scored. However, with the bases loaded in the first inning, Tapia struck out to end the frame. It’s part of a trend this season for Tapia, who has struck out 34 times in 144 plate appearances (23.6 percent of the time) while drawing just eight walks. In fact, in 34 plate appearances in August and September, Tapia has had just one walk.
For a player who can do so much with his speed, getting on base is imperative and Tapia simply hasn’t been doing that lately. Especially in August when he hit just .125 in 24 at-bats. That’s one of the reasons why he was sent down on August 28, meaning he couldn’t be called back up until the Rockies were well past the roster expansion date.
After the slate shifted from Los Angeles, Tapia had just four plate appearances in the four-game series at the Arizona Diamondbacks, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Tapia has a lot of promise, but it’s clear that, right now, he doesn’t figure into Colorado’s plans as much as some fans would like. That will likely continue throughout the rest of the regular season and ensure that he is not a part of Colorado’s postseason roster, should the Rockies clinch a Wild Card spot.
"“He’s won a few games for us,” Black told MLB.com right after Tapia was recalled on September 7. “I think he’s had a nice year overall, also with the Triple-A season and what he’s done for us. It’s been a nice growth year for Ramiel, to the point where I think he’s put himself on the radar moving forward.”"
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It appears that Tapia and the Rockies can look forward to his growth paying off in the future, not this season. With Carlos Gonzalez back to “CarGo mode,” and Parra, Desmond and Blackmon available, that’s a reality that Colorado fans will just have to swallow.