In 2010, Tapia signed with the Rockies (see Transactions below).
In August 2013, Tapia's Grand Junction club-record 29-game hitting streak ended three games short of Chris Valaika’s Pioneer League record 32-game hitting streak set at Billings in 2006.
He spent two years in the Dominican Summer League before making his US debut at age 19. As evidenced by leading the Pioneer League in batting (.357) and ranking third with 33 extra-base hits, his 2013 season was a huge success. In 2014, he was third in the batting race in the South Atlantic League. And in 2015, he led the high Class A California League in hits (166) and ranked among the league leaders in stolen bases (26) and batting (.305).
For three straight years, Baseball America rated Tapia as the 10th-best prospect in the Rockies' organization—in 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2017, Raimel moved up to #4.
July 12, 2015: Tapia (World Team) represented the Colorado organization in the Sirius-XM All-Star Futures Game held at Great American Ball Park.
Growing up in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, Tapia had no shortage of baseball influences.
"I had three brothers that signed and played baseball as well: Rafael Tapia, Antonio Linares and Jose Linares," Tapia said. "They didn't play in the Majors, but they helped me a lot. One of them, Antonio, has a Little League in the Dominican, and all of my brothers helped me. Alfonso Soriano helped me a lot. He's very close with my brother, and he lives close to my house in the Dominican, and when I'm at home, he works with me."
• The crouch with two strikes is unusual, although it's based on solid principles—short at the beginning, long through the zone. And to his relief and the credit of the Rockies, no one tried to change him when he started using it in the Dominican Summer League in 2011.
"They would always give me little tips of just things I could do differently but never told me to change my approach," he said. "I keep my approach the same, just use little tips here and there to adjust."
• Even with all his pro baseball influences from his brothers and Soriano, Tapia struggled with proper nutrition when he came to the U.S. for Rookie ball in 2013—when he was named TOPPS Pioneer League Player of the Year after hitting .357 at Grand Junction.
"They taught me to always play hard and follow what you want to do," Tapia said. "But they didn't teach me to cook. I didn't know when I came over. I learned recently—rice and meat. And I eat salads and vegetables sometimes."
• In the minor leagues, Tapia played more center field (284 appearances) than the corners (148 in left, 124 in right). With his defense behind his hitting, he saw time in left in Spring Training. But throughout the season he made center his home. Blackmon's injury gave him the opportunity to flash the speed that helps his offense and could give him above-average range once comfortable in the Majors.
"I worked very hard in the Dominican, with the coaches in Arizona, in Double-A and in Triple-A," he said. "I worked a lot with everyone just to better my defense and hopefully get up to the big leagues and be able to showcase that—just seeing the angles better, being ready and seeing the ball."
• Don't order those No. 68 TAPIA jerseys. If he has his way, he won't wear it long.
"I like the number 15. It's my favorite," Tapia said. "I wore No. 15 when I was younger, through the Dominican." (Harding - MLB.com - 9/15/16)
Nickname: EL FIFTY. “When I was little, I listened to a lot of songs from the rapper 50 Cent,” Tapia said in Spanish through an interpreter. “When I was little, I didn't understand the words and my friends would ask me why I listened to that if I couldn't understand it. I just told them that I liked the rhythm of the music and that’s why that name stuck.” (Thomas Harding - MLB.com - Aug. 18, 2019)
April 4, 2020: Tapia is now renowned in his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, for more than baseball.
Tapia recently provided a large quantity of supplies—including food, toiletries, surgical masks and gloves—for about 150 families there.
Raimel made the arrangements and distributed the much-needed materials with no public announcement, and without even getting the team involved. The Rockies discovered it only through seeing posts from his followers on Instagram. (Thomas Harding)
Rockies manager Bud Black has a catch phrase for the intermittent bolts of lightning, occasionally thunder, Raimel: “Tap Time!”
With his first clear opportunity for regular starts, Tapia, 26, believes 2020 truly his time. “My goal would be to win MVP,” Tapia said in Spanish through a translator. But he was sure to say the three magic letters clearly, so they would be understood in any tongue. “I’ve worked a lot and I’ve worked really hard. During the break, I was training and getting myself strong. I think that’s a good goal to have for myself.”
Forecasters already are musing that this 60-game, pandemic-affected season could produce strange Award winners. If he realizes his dream, Tapia would qualify. Tapia feels prepared after an apprenticeship as a prospect and a fledgling Major Leaguer. And two factors fuel Tapia’s dream, and make it not seem so crazy:
• He hit upon an adjustment during Spring Training 2020—a toe-tap—that had the ball leaving his bat with velocity unseen at this level. And the compulsion to chase pitches outside the zone began melting away.
• Since the Rockies began play in 1993, 9 different players have won 11 batting championships. Tapia’s bat-to-ball skills and Coors Field could make him a threat to become the 10th in a 162-game season.
Black has challenged Tapia to be on time for Tap Time. “He’s had enough time in and around the big leagues to know what this big league competition is all about and how he needs to play his game to be a contributor. And he’s ready for that. He’s ready for production. His expectation is that, as is ours for him.”
Tapia took that adjustment to the Dominican Republic after the March 12, 2020 shutdown to continue the quiet work on his swing and in the weight room—to maintain the muscle he added during the winter. And while stardom is still Tapia's dream, he contributed to his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, like a star, quietly . . . before a fan Instagram account publicized it.
Watching Tapia progress as a hitter has been visual eye candy. He popped up in Spring Training games displaying a crouch, known as “The Crab,” with two strikes and extended his at-bats to notable proportions. He has adjusted that, but his mannerisms, from smelling the bat to some bat-pointing and shoulder touching, give off a quirky nature.
Tapia's family features youth coaches and former Minor Leaguers, and he was trained in the Dominican by former big leaguer Rafael Soriano. Tapia doesn’t just dream about hitting. He dreams hitting specifics.
“My routine every night before I go to bed is to put on video of the pitcher I will be facing the next day,” Tapia said. “I’ll watch that, study the pitcher, watch the pitches. My brothers will help me out and send me video.”
Now is Tapia’s chance to move from apprentice to certified starter, at least. His aspirations are bigger than that. (Harding - mlb.com - 7/14/2020)
2020 Season: Tapia quietly had himself a very solid season. He set career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS on his way to cracking into the Rockies top ten in rWAR for 2020. By hitting .321, Tapia had the ninth best batting average in all of baseball, good for seventh in the National League. Joelle Milholm documented Tapia’s offseason work, including how he put on 15 pounds of muscle and worked on his plate discipline with coaches Dave Magadan and Jeff Salazar.
While Tapia is eligible for arbitration this offseason, the expectation is that he will still be with the Rockies in 2021, and in my opinion, should find his way to the top two in the batting order. He’s fast, seems to be moving in the right direction with his on-base percentage, and would be a great guy to have at the top of the lineup if he could maintain an average near his 2020 mark. Add in the fact that Tapia’s strikeout rate dropped from 23 percent to 18 percent between 2019 and 2020, and you’re talking about a bat with all the qualities you’re looking for at the top of the lineup.
Speed is probably the thing Tapia is most known for, and his fast feet were fully on display for the club this year. He swiped eight bags, just one shy of his career high in 2019. He played 87 more games that year; it’s safe to assume an additional 87 in 2020 would have given him ample time to set a career high in stolen bases. On top of that, Tapia’s speed is a big plus for his defensive game as the expanse of the Coors Field outfield is daunting.
Tapia will be 27 when spring training starts next year, and the positive steps he took in 2020 make me very optimistic about his ability to be a solid presence in the Rockies lineup in the coming seasons. His home runs were down this year as he only went yard once in the club’s 60 games, but if we have to trade his lack of homers for an increased average, on-base percentage, and OPS, that’s a trade-off I’m willing to get behind.
Finally: By getting a hit in the 2017 Wild Card game against Arizona, he’s hitting a clean 1.000 in his postseason career. (Eric Fayeulle - Oct 29, 2020)
Raimel Tapia came to love the four-legged, mooing 5:00 a.m. wakeup calls. “It started when I was little,” said Tapia, the youngest of his family’s seven children. “My dad had a lot of cows. He didn't have a farm, so they were, you know, on the patio. But that's where my love came from.”
In 2016 and 2017, as he was breaking into the Majors, Tapia purchased land for a farm for his father. On this farm, the Tapias have cows, goats and pigs. Oh, and turkeys, other birds and a lake stocked with fish, and some of the blue crabs he remembers collecting for food as a youth.
Crabbing: “There are all kinds of ways to do it; you can even put your hand in the crab hole or use a stick,” Tapia said. Crabbing was such a part of Tapia’s identity that he has an adhesive crab logo on the knob of his bat. He would even call the crouch he formerly used with two strikes “The Crab.” Tapia’s private Instagram account includes a photo from a 2019 feature on AT&T SportsNet, during which he, bullpen catcher Aaron Muñoz and reporter Taylor McGregor enjoyed crabmeat at a San Francisco restaurant. But, as Tapia explained Saturday in Spanish (with Muñoz translating), his identity is broad—beyond baseball, even beyond crabs.
“I want to show them, especially the kids in the Minor Leagues and growing up there, to show respect on and off the field, and that you’re able to have a life off the field,” said Tapia.
Tapia said he is not exactly sure of the size of the farm, except that “it’s pretty big.” But he and his father are clear on how they operate their farm. In fact, "wildlife preserve" may be a more accurate label for the land.
“When I bought the farm, it was mostly for my dad—his love for the farm, mostly just to have animals in a general area,” Tapia said. “Otherwise, it would be dangerous, growing animals without a farm. He gets up in the morning, 5:00 a.m, and then runs the farm. Brothers help out as well. It’s definitely a family thing. He will sell animals if he needs them. He does it with a lot of love, and he doesn’t kill them.”
The love that runs in the family runs through Tapia. During last year’s shutdown, when he wasn’t quietly handing out needed food and supplies in his home area, he was doing his running and hitting among the cows, as he shared on Instagram.
“It's honestly like baseball for me. I love animals to death,” Tapia said. “I hate killing animals. So I love raising them. And I love having them. The love of baseball and the love of farming go hand in hand.” (Thomas Harding - March 20, 2021)
As Raimel sank deeper into his slump, manager Bud Black mentioned that Tapia’s approach was to try softer, not drive himself crazy in the batting cage. Tapia knew he had to relax, also. That trip began in New York, where many players from the Dominican Republic have friends and family in the area. For Tapia, it meant time with his older brother, Antonio Linares.
How was he going to get away from baseball this way? This is a family that loves the game. Linares played in the Phillies organization before Tapia was born, and Tapia wears 15 in his honor. Another brother, Rafael Tapia, played in the Orioles organization, and another, Jose Linares, played professionally in the Dominican Republic.
Back when Raimel was a child, his mother bought him a glove for his left hand, and he went out for Antonio Linares’ youth team. One day, Tapia took off the glove and began throwing lefty. “He looked at me and said, ‘Tapia, are you crazy?’” Tapia said a couple years back. “I said, ‘No. I’m lefty. I throw better lefty.’ He watched me throw and said, ‘OK, you’re a lefty, right now.’”
But during last week’s trip to New York, Tapia and his brother realized that while baseball talk was wonderful, he needed something else. “He’s always waiting for me when we get to New York and New Jersey,” Tapia said. “We talked a little bit about hitting, a little bit about baseball. He gives me little insights of what he thinks. But you know, it's mostly about family and having a good time.”
If Tapia’s instincts are correct, the good times are about to roll. The climb just might have begun with a little family time. (Harding - mlb.com - 6/3/2021)
2021 Season: .273 avg., .699 OPS, 6 HRs, 50 RBIs
Tapia’s season, much like his career, ran hot and cold. There was much to like: 20 stolen bases, a career-low 13.1% strikeout rate, and a career-high 7.5% walk rate. But there were periodic slumps, and a lingering toe injury in the second half of the season slowed him considerably.
Tapia shows occasional power, as his six homers illustrate, but he’s a free swinger who grounds out too much. In fact, when he puts balls in play, he hits grounders at a 67.4% clip.
He continues to make strides on defense and on the basepaths, and he hit .295 with runners in scoring position. (Patrick Saunders - firstname.lastname@example.org - Denver Post - October 14, 2021)
November 2010: Tapia signed with the Rockies, via scouts Rolando Fernandez, Jhonathan Leyba, and Hector Roa, out of the Dominican Republic. He received $175,000.
- Jan 15, 2021: Tapia and the Rockies avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal for $1.9 million.
- March 24, 2022: The Toronto Blue Jays sent Randal Grichuk to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for fellow outfielder Raimel Tapia and infielder Adrian Pinto.
|Birth City:||San Pedro de Macoris, D.R.|
|Draft:||2010 - Rockies - Free agent - Out of the D.R.|
Tapia can square the ball up well. He has a middle-of-the-field approach, but also shows notable pull-side power. Plus, he's got loft in his swing and is just beginning to fill out his body.
Don’t get caught up in the way he crouches in two-strike situations. He does not have that typical rise before he swings in that situation, instead staying low and maintaining the ability to drive the ball into gaps despite the unique approach.
Raimel has a nice, easy swing that begins with an open stance that is a little unorthodox, but it works for him. He has a good idea at the plate and barrels up the ball, and he also has the ability to lay down bunts. Tapia has solid bat speed and shows surprising pop considering his slender frame, but he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter now. Observers think he can develop more power as he gets stronger. He makes adjustments at the plate and doesn’t strike out much. He just has an uncanny knack for getting the barrel of his bat on the ball.
Tapia began the 2017 season having posted a career .317 batting average in the minor leagues. (Spring, 2017)
He has the loose hands at the plate with excellent hand-eye coordination that should help him hit for average. And he has success vs. both lefthanded and righthanded pitchers.
However, some scouts are skeptical how the lefthanded hitting Tapia will fare against more advanced pitchers because he crouches deep in his stance with two strikes creates head movement that could make Tapia vulnerable.
The crouch is not as pronounced as it once was. And he has the aptitude and the athleticism to recognize when he’s got to adjust in certain ways.
“I’ve seen him turn around 95 (mph) from that crouch and hit laser beams into the outfield," Twins farm director Zach Wilson said. (Spring 2016)
Raimel has plus bat speed and the ability to manipulate the barrel. He has an upright stance until he gets to two strikes, when he spreads out and squats way down in a pronounced crouch, and consistently generates hard two-strike contact.
He has has some moving parts in his swing, but he has innate feel for timing and sharp hand-eye coordination. He can even barrel a ball that is well outside the strike zone. He brings an aggressive approach to the plate, often expanding the strike zone, but his hands allow him to make consistent contact.
Tapia needs to be more patient at the plate. He rarely walks.
"His mentality when he goes up to the plate, it’s a mano-a-mano type of challenge between him and the pitcher,” Rockies development supervisor Tony Diaz said in 2013. “It’s a beauty to see him do that and to see a player with that type of mentality, because for him it’s playing in San Pedro de Macoris in the street between him and somebody else that he has to beat.”
- During the 2014 season, Raimel really would go into an exaggerated crouch when he had two strikes on him. It can best be described as spreading out and squatting down in an impression of Eddie Gaedel.
“You only get away with some of that stuff at lower levels,” said one opposing manager. “When pitchers have some feel and command, it will be exploited.”
October 14, 2015: Baseball Prospectus’s Ryan Parker says it all, “Tapia can straight up hit. First 70 I’ve ever put down on a hitter and I did so with confidence. He makes adjustments during at bats and during his own swings that are usually unseen at this level of minor league ball. Tapia is a top-of-the-order hitter who could either be a table setter or clear the table himself; special bat.”
Out of all the prospects in the Rockies farm system, Tapia may be the best pure hitter.
But Tapia is a divisive player, no question. And I’m not sure anyone has the answers right now. He still has quite a bit of developing to do physically, which could impact his power and where he ends up playing in the outfield. That said, the dude can hit. He hasn’t stopped hitting since the Rockies signed him, and he has a tremendous feel for the barrel and hand-eye coordination.
His mechanics are unorthodox, especially the squatting he does with two strikes, but it’s worked for him. He’s far from a finished product. He needs to tighten up his zone, and maybe the Rockies do tweak his swing at some point. But he brings a lot of excitement and athleticism, and he’s been remarkably consistent over his pro career. If he keeps hitting, he’s going to be hard to ignore. (Michael Lananna - Baseball America - 11/25/2015)
- Raimel is a very skillful bunter. And he could be help at the top of the batting order.
"Raimel's got a knack to hit, that's for sure," manager Walt Weiss said. "He's one of those natural hitters that can barrel up the baseball. He can run. He's an exciting player. He can do a lot of things."
Tapia begins counts with aggression, but has a solid eye. His two-strike approach is eye-catching. He spreads his feet and lowers to a squat. As spring 2016 started the crouch was not much higher than the catcher. Tapia is slightly higher now, but it's his adjustment, not one given by coaches.
"His whole thing is taking a little bit off and putting the ball in play, but the kid is so wiry strong he's knocking them off the wall, even, with two strikes," hitting coach Blake Doyle said. "The kid puts bat through the zone as well as anybody, he's just a hitter. You don't mess with that. It may look a little unconventional, but right now unconventional works."
"I always go to the plate confident and aggressive, always looking for the pitch that I want," Tapia said. "I'm always swinging at pitches that look like the one I'm looking for. I'm a line-drive hitter," he said. "I can bunt, too. But if a home run comes up, that's fine. But I'm going to stick to the line drive.
"It feels really close, but I can't stop working. I can't stop playing. I've got to continue. Then when I get there, I want to stay there." (Harding - MLB.com - 3/13/16)
Loose, active hands produce a quick swing that comes from different stances—somewhat conventional until there are two strikes, when he crouches almost as low as the catcher. In Spring Training 2016, before the rigors of the season, Tapia was lacing balls to the gaps for extra bases against Major League pitchers, the way he did throughout the Minor League year.
"He's a bit unconventional, but he's got great bat-to-ball skills, great hand-eye coordination," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "There is some power there that's going to continue to improve. He's a dynamic player, runs well. He's made a good impression up here." (Harding - MLB.com - 9/15/16)
- March 2020: All the eating was a little much for Raimel in the beginning.
“At 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., at noon, 4, 8, and 11 p.m., so many different meals throughout the day,” Tapia said. But this spring, Tapia is up about 15-20 pounds (to around 190) from last season, thanks to his dietary changes, a training program, and a maturing 6-foot-3, 26-year-old frame. And he's letting his swing eat too, to the tune of a .355/.394/.613 slash line (11-for-31).
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the Rockies’ home park, is the only one in the Cactus League that measures Statcast data. The technology is new this year, meaning there is no point of comparison for past springs. But so far this year, Tapia’s exit velocity on his four extra-base hits has measured an average of 105 mph. In 2019, Tapia’s 37 extra-base hits (nine home runs, including one inside-the-parker, five triples and 23 doubles) averaged 95.3 mph.
For perspective, last year’s exit velocity was right along the definition of a hard-hit ball. Of the 277 hitters with 25 or more extra-base hits, Tapia’s average ranked 264th.
Tapia arrived with bigger arms and more defined muscle thanks to the program of fitness trainer Alex Madrigal in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. This is more than cosmetic.
“At first it was a little hard for me, and I really didn’t want to follow it, but he’s the trainer and he had my best interests at heart,” Tapia said. “But I knew that following that schedule was going to make me a better baseball player and was going to help me support my family and follow my dreams.”
A logical look at roster construction suggests that the lefthanded-hitting Tapia and righthanded Ian Desmond could platoon in left field. Tapia also could move to center or right, depending on rest days for Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl.
But the volume of Tapia’s opportunity will depend on pairing his muscle with a strong approach. Last year, his fortunes seemed linked to playing time; however, it’s better to be consistent and justify playing at all times.
The problem was that at the start of Spring Training, Tapia’s swing was full of timing issues. It featured something between a leg kick and a hover, which created a lean toward home plate. All the motion made it difficult to decipher pitch and spin. An off-balance swing with a long finish may make it look like he was trying to hit home runs, but often he was trying to recover from lateness and poor decisions.
Hitting coach Dave Magadan, who speaks fluent Spanish and has productive conversations with Tapia, and assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar, who has worked with Tapia since his Minor League days, gave a no-uncertain-words edict. Be in better position to hit; playing time depends on it.
The coaches respected Tapia’s instinct and his willingness to listen. Tapia came up with a deliberate toe-tap. And the ball began to fly off his bat.
“He took that to heart,” Salazar said. “So when we played at Texas on March 8, he led off the game with an opposite-field home run.” (T Harding - MLB.com - March 11, 2020)
As of the start of the 2021 season, Raimel's career Major League stats were: .285 batting average, 13 home runs and 237 hits with 86 RBI in 833 at-bats.
Raimel can play all three outfield positions. He is probably most comfortable in center where he has enough range to play every day. But his plus arm also fits in right.
He gets pretty good reads and jumps on the ball off the bat.
Tapia can be overly emotional when things aren’t going his way on the field, and he can lose focus on defense.
He has plus arm strength, but his accuracy on throws needs work. (Spring 2015)
July 1, 2018: A fly ball off Justin Turner's bat during the Rockies-Dodgers game should've just been a can of corn for center fielder Tapia. Instead, Raimel, a showman at heart, made the routine come off as wildly entertaining.
That ball was volleyed at least six times and hit a different body part with each point of contact. Tapia also gets major bonus points for catching it in his armpit instead of his glove. (Monagan - mlb.com)
Raimel has plus speed, 55 or 60.
Tapia's times from home plate to first base are not that fast because of the exaggerated crouch in his batting stance.
Once on the bases, his speed does not play so well. (Spring 2017)
In 2017, MLB added a new Statcast metric, "Sprint Speed," which measures runner foot speed in feet per second. We report the average of a player's qualified maximum effort runs, so we end up with a number where 27 feet per second is league average, and the slowest catchers and designated hitters are down around 23 feet per second.
Sprint Speed leaders in 2017: 30 feet per second—Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton; 29.7 feet per second—Bradley Zimmer. Coming in at 29.6 feet per second—Dee Gordon and Raimel Tapia.
- In 2021 with the Rockies, he stole 20 bases for the first time.
Aug 24-Sept 3, 2019: Raimel was on the IL with a left-hand contusion.
Sep 14, 2020: Tapia was removed from the 5-3 loss to the Angels because of dizziness, manager Bud Black said.
Tapia, not feeling well to start the day according to Black, hit his head on the ground while making a diving catch of a Jared Walsh liner in left-center field in the top of the third. He stayed in long enough to single in the bottom of the third. Then he was replaced in left field by David Dahl to open the fifth after Black consulted with the team’s athletic trainers.
- Aug 10-30, 2021: Tapia was on the IL with a right big toe strain.