While the season might have started slowly for Raimel Tapia, the Colorado Rockies outfielder has become a key contributor to the team’s offense from the leadoff position.
Now in his fifth season with the Colorado Rockies, Raimel Tapia came into his own last year playing in a career-high 138 games (after only a combined 117 in his first three years with the club) while batting .275.
He blasted four pinch-hit home runs in 2019 to tie him for the second-most in the National League while also tying him for second-most in Rox franchise history.
The 2020 season began with Tapia, who bats from the left side, mired in a 2-for-16 slump while being platooned in the outfield.
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But when given an opportunity to play regularly, the native of San Pedro de Marcos in the Dominican Republic responded while initially batting in the bottom third of the order.
Entering action Monday night against San Diego at Coors Field, he had started 17 of the last 18 games since Aug. 11. During that stretch, he had hit .361 (22-for-61) with one double, two triples, seven runs batted in, and a .466 OBP.
With Opening Day leadoff hitter David Dahl struggling at the plate with an average close to .200 (before being injured) and Garrett Hampson, who also saw some time in the leadoff spot, with an average hovering near .250, Colorado manager Bud Black called on Tapia for leadoff duties.
Tapia has made his manager look prophetic while flourishing in his new role atop the batting order.
Against the Padres, a series in which Tapia was 5-for-12 at the plate entering the series finale Monday night to improve his season average to .312, Tapia had batted leadoff in each of the last 10 contests he had played while compiling a .351 (13-for-37) average with one triple and eight walks.
Against Houston on Aug. 20, he reached base five times (four walks and a single) and has a .478 OBP while batting leadoff for the Rockies.
Taking a look at some of Tapia’s statistics, through play of August 30, reveals some interesting facts.
He had eight multi-hit games this season (same as Nolan Arenado). While batting from the left side, Tapia actually hits left-handers at a .438 pace while his mark against right-handers is .279 (albeit he does have nearly four times as many at bats against right-handers than lefthanders).
With runners in scoring position, the 26-year-old — who is the only player in franchise history with multiple pinch-hit grand slams with two — is hitting .412 (5-11) through action of August 30.
While Tapia has seemingly entrenched himself in the leadoff position for the Rox, it will be interesting to see if he will remain there after Colorado picked up outfielder Kevin Pillar from the Boston Red Sox in a trade deadline acquisition Aug. 31.
In parts of eight seasons with Toronto, San Francisco and Boston, Pillar batted .261 with 80 homers and 331 RBI in 881 career games. In 30 games this season with the Red Sox, he was hitting .274 with four home runs and 13 RBI.
How might Pillar’s addition impact Tapia in terms of remaining in the leadoff spot?
Here is what Black had to say about where he envisioned Pillar’s spot in the batting order after the Rox acquisition on Aug. 31:
"“Well, probably, maybe towards the bottom right now. It’s fluid for us. Tap(ia) is doing a nice job in leading off. Kevin can fit in a lot of different places. …he has hit everywhere in the order. There is a potential for him to hit anywhere in our order.”"
In addition, defensively, Pillar’s presence will have an impact on the rotation of Tapia and other members of the Rockies outfield.
"“We’ll see,” Black said in reference to just who might man the outfield for the Rockies the rest of the season.“It depends on certain matchups, probably with Garrett and Sam (Hilliard) and even Tap(ia) and whether Charlie (Blackmon) needs a day to DH or an off day. All these things come into play every night when we decide our roster.“They (players) are going to get opportunities to help us win a game,” Black continued, “whether it’s pinch-hitting or whether they start or whether they pinch run and stay in a game, whether they start a game. They are going to be used. When they get a chance to play, these guys want to help us win.”"
Even with Pillar now a member of the Rockies outfield and expected to be a contributor to the lineup, Tapia can still remain a valuable asset for Colorado with only 3.5 weeks of regular season play remaining.