A-Ball Wednesday: Domingo Tapia is a “Front-Runner”

A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 4, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 3 

Better from Domingo Tapia: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.

Tapia St. Lucie HeadTapia is one of the most confounding prospects in the Mets’ system. He has one of the best fastballs in the system, showing 95-96 mph with sink regularly with plenty of 98 and a few 100s mixed in. His changeup, when it’s right, dives like a splitter out of the zone.  He’s struggled in years past to find a release point for his slider as it used to come out loopy from his low 3/4 arm slot and he basically stopped throwing it at the end of the 2012 season in Savannah.

This year, Tapia got off to a strong start in April in St. Lucie (2.73 ERA, 26.1 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 10 BB, 24 K) but has had an ERA above 4.50 every month thereafter, with an 8.53 ERA in May and an 11.37 ERA (8 ER/6.1 IP) in August. Simply, he’s walking too many guys. In August, he’s walked seven in those 6.1 innings. In July it was 15 walks in 21.2 innings.

Excluding a rainout on April 30, Tapia has failed to finish his second inning five times, and thrice in his last five starts. As Mets Pitching Coordinator Ron Romanick explains, bad things can snowball on Tapia, “He just misses out of the zone, and he has a hard time recovering,” he explained on Sunday. “His stuff moves so much. He’s probably one of our best front-runner pitchers. [When] he gets out on a roll, he rolls it out of there. But that first or second inning, when he’s just missing, he’s had his struggles.”

The velocity is still there. As a scout told me in late June/early July: “Tapia threw the sh-t out of the ball.”

And yet on August 9, Baseball America as part of their weekly Hot Sheet, Baseball America wrote, “Tapia’s stuff hasn’t been the same as it was in 2012, when his fastball hit 98 mph and his changeup looked like a potentially plus pitch. The 21-year-old has struggled ….

 

Romanick too, disputed that the raw stuff has declined, “Everything is there, the reports I get. His changeup, which I think is his second best pitch, we’re trying to get him to be aggressive with it and throw it, when maybe his fastball is missing with it. At times, he’ll try to force the fastball all the time, when he has a plus second pitch.” Romanick thinks the slider too has improved, “we’ve tightened that up; it’s gotten a lot better.”

All of this sounds good and the FSL is still only hitting .240/.354/.331 against him and has 3 homerus in 86 innings. But if he cannot throw strikes, none of it matters.

Tapia was my #11 Mets prospect entering the 2013 season. He’ll drop this coming year, and probably not that far anyway, but a few realy good starts in August would make for a smaller dip.

 

A: @ Rome Braves 3, Savannah Sand Gnats 2 

CF Brandon Nimmo: 1-for-3, 2B, BB. In 13 games in August, the 20-year-old Nimmo is hitting .364/.517/.500 with three doubles, a homer and 12 walks against 14 strikeouts. That a good way to end a season. For the year, he’s up to .272/.389/.366 in 89 games.

Nimmo is not one of the SAL’s 20 youngest players overall, but he is one of just 28 hitters to qualify for the SAL’s batting title at age 20 or younger. According to Baseball Reference, 55 of his plate appearances have come against pitchers younger than himself, while 344 have come against his “elders.”

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