Rockies' Tapia extends hit streak to 20

19-year-old outfielder leads Pioneer League with .404 average

By Jake Seiner / | July 20, 2013 10:25 PM ET

Where would 19-year-old Raimel Tapia have been picked if the Dominican outfielder was eligible for the First-Year Player Draft? Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders isn't shy with his opinion.

"This is a first-round pick, for sure," the 39-year-old skipper said. "He has those kinds of tools."

Sanders doesn't just see the tools from the lanky outfielder. He sees a surprisingly refined approach, one that's helping Tapia make quite an impact in his stateside debut.

On Saturday night, the Rockies prospect collected a pair of singles to extend his hitting streak to a Pioneer League season-high 20 games in Rookie-level Grand Junction's 7-4 loss at Great Falls.

The emerging teenager has hit safely in all but three of his 26 games this season, compiling a .404 batting average and 1.013 OPS. The average is tops in the league by more than 30 points, and he also leads the league in hits (44), RBIs (28) and total bases (66).

"He's going to be a beast," Sanders said, raving about the outfielder's tools and makeup. "We always joke around with the coaches, if he were drafted here in the States, he compares to the first-rounders out of high school."

Tapia, who bats leadoff for the Rockies, opened Saturday's game with a line drive single to left field off Great Falls starter Todd Kibby (3-1). He came around to score on Jordan Patterson's base hit to right.

The left-handed hitter came up again in the second with two outs and doubled. Miguel Dilone promptly doubled him home.

The outfielder signed with Colorado as an international free agent on Nov. 29, 2010. The Rockies sent him to their Dominican Summer League team for the 2011 season, and then then-17-year-old hit .262 with a homer, 35 RBIs, 15 steals and a .658 OPS in 67 games.

Tapia returned to the DSL in 2012 and showed improvement with the bat. In 63 games, he upped his average to .316 and his OPS to .746. In his first stint in the United States, he's already turned in a number of standout performances. He had four hits in his debut on June 20, then overshadowed first-round pick Jonathan Gray's debut with a 5-for-5 effort July 10. That breakout included a homer, three doubles, five RBIs and a pair of runs scored.

Tapia already has clubbed a pair of homers, doubling his output in two DSL seasons. And his 10 doubles are a career best.

"I think that what's allowing it is mostly his approach," Sanders said. "He can put the bat on the ball and he has tons of tools, but you can watch him pitch-to-pitch and at-bat to at-bat, he's making adjustments. He's figuring out what guys are trying to do to him, and you don't see that much at this level."

Tapia's also played all three outfield spots, where Sanders said he's showcased his athletic versatility.

"He probably has the strongest arm on our team, so that's great for right field," Sanders said. "Then he has the range to play center. He definitely can do it all out there defensively."

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 160-pounds, Tapia is still growing. Sanders estimated he's already at least 6-3 and thinks that as his frame fills out, he'll develop into a player with a prototypical right fielder's build.

"He's definitely a young pup with room to grow," Sanders said. "He's a tall, lanky guy and he's just starting to get into the weight room."

For Great Falls, Danny Hayes went 2-for-3 with his second homer of the season, two walks, two RBIs and two runs scored. Corey Thompson added three hits, drove in one run and scored another.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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