Colorado Rockies: Raimel Tapia needs to leap forward in 2020

DENVER, COLORADO - MAY 27: Raimel Tapia #15 of the Colorado Rockies celebrates hitting a walk off single to drive in the wining run in the 11th inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field on May 27, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - MAY 27: Raimel Tapia #15 of the Colorado Rockies celebrates hitting a walk off single to drive in the wining run in the 11th inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field on May 27, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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When looking at the Colorado Rockies outfield, there are two All-Stars anchoring two spots but the third spot seems to be filled with a mixture of hope and trepidation.

The Colorado Rockies will likely start the 2020 season with David Dahl in center field and Charlie Blackmon in right field. But what happens in left field where a mixture of Ian Desmond, Raimel Tapia and perhaps Sam Hilliard could be one of the keys to Colorado’s potential for improving on last season’s 71-91 mark.

Last year, seven players saw action in left field for the Rockies, with Tapia starting 78 of the 91 games he played there. Desmond and Dahl (each with 37 starts) were the only other players to get more than five games in in left.

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Certainly, this season, Dahl could move over to left when needed, but the Rockies will need to field three outfielders and figure out which of them can actually chip in offensively near the bottom of the lineup as well while also not being a defensive liability.

That’s where the mystery of Tapia really comes into play. Considered one of Colorado’s most promising prospects, Tapia saw sporadic time from 2016-2018, gathering just 239 plate appearances. Last season, forced onto the roster after running out of minor league options, Tapia had mixed reviews. In 447 plate appearances, Tapia slashed .275/.309/.415 and had an OPS+ of just 74. Desmond, meanwhile, posted an OPS+ of 88 last season.

There has been talk this season of Desmond playing primarily against left-handers (where he hit .297 versus .226 against right-handers). In a platoon situation, that will leave plenty of opportunities for Tapia to flash his skills, including his speed that resulted in a pair of inside-the-park homers last season but just nine stolen bases.

What are the biggest signs for hope for next season? Tapia hit .327/.356/,487 in 118 plate appearances batting sixth and .303/.343/.530 batting seventh (70 plate appearances). He was also hitting .351 in August (with nine strikeouts in 74 at-bats) when a bruised left hand landed him on the injured list. He was also leading the Rockies with a .341 average since the All-Star break when the injury knocked him out of the lineup.

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If Tapia can play like he did in July and August rather than when he returned in September (17 strikeouts in 53 at-bats with a .170/.185/.245 slash line), it would be a plus for a Rockies team looking for every positive they can in a team that is largely unchanged from last season. It would also be a change for a player who has been as inconsistent in his time with the Rockies as has his playing time.

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