Fantasy owners can be pretty consistent at times. Take a prospect in the Rockies' system, see the big offensive numbers they put up in the minor leagues, and instantly translate that into a fantasy monster. So it's not a surprise to see Raimel Tapia jumping up prospect lists after his excellent 2013 stateside debut at Grand Junction, but do the reports on his potential match up, or is he simply another high-altitude mirage?
Raimel Tapia was signed by the Rockies out of the Dominican Republic toward the end of 2010, receiving a bonus of $175K. He spent his first two years in the Dominican Summer League, hitting .289 with one home run and 28 stolen bases over 130 games. A walk rate of nearly 8% stands out, but the even bigger number was the strikeout rate of just 13.7%, showcasing an ability to make consistent contact.
The Rockies moved Tapia to their short-season affiliate in Grand Junction, Colorado for the 2013 season, and Tapia showed that he was easily ready for the challenge. He had a 29 game hitting streak that year, and ended up finishing the year with a .357/.399/.562 slash line, seven home runs, 10 stolen bases, and 145 total bases. His walk rate dropped to 5%, but that also came with a further reduction in the strikeout totals, to 10%.
He was moved up to full season Low-A this year, and has played all three outfield spots while hitting .332/.386/.462 with nine home runs and 32 stolen bases in 117 games. With the better competition he has seen his strikeout rate increase to 17%, which is still a very respectable number.
While the minor league stops for the Rockies tend to be littered with high offense environments, Tapia does not appear to be the mirage that we will sometimes see from their prospects. Nearly all reports on Tapia rave about his ability to make excellent contact on a consistent basis, and specifically his ability to barrel the ball. He has shown thus far that he can translate that into high batting averages, and should be able to continue that as he progresses through the minors.
Tapia is considered an excellent runner, and has shown the potential to steal 20-30 bases a season already. There do appear to be some questions about his skill at doing this (32 in 48 attempts this year, a 66% success rate), and specifically how well he reads the pitcher and whether he gets good jumps or not. As he gets more reps and potentially additional coaching, that should improve based on his raw speed.
The biggest questions seem to stem from what Tapia's power potential is. His hit tool should help him to reach what that potential is, but whether that is just a 10 home run per season or a 20 home run per season hitter right now is up for debate. He is listed right now at 6'2", 160 lbs, and so the potential for him to gain additional muscle as he matures could change what that ceiling will be.
On defense, Tapia is more than capable of playing center field, but has played all three spots this year as he defers primarily to former top pick David Dahl. His bat is strong enough for him to play any of the three outfield spots, but the reports on his arm point to a left field future as more likely than right.
Tapia rose all the way to #26 on my midseason prospect rankings update, as he has the potential to be a .300-.320 hitter with 10-15 home runs, 100 runs, 70 RBI, and 30+ stolen bases in the outfield. He still has things to work on in the minors, and is likely at least two full seasons away from showing up in Coors Field, but the potential ceiling is a top 25 overall player and a top 10 outfielder if it all clicks.