Minor League Spotlight: Domingo Tapia
In today's minor league spotlight we'll take a break from the lesser known prospects and take a closer look at a prospect most Mets fans have heard of: Domingo Tapia.
Tapia has great stuff and a high ceiling. He has a plus fastball that not only has mid 90's or higher velocity, but great movement and heavy sink that comes in on right handed batters. He also has a good change up and a slider that's a work in progress. However, despite great stuff, he had a rough season on the mound in 2013, putting up a record of 3-9 and ERA of 4.62 in St. Lucie.
Tapia's biggest problem this season was his control. Opponents his .231 against him, which is acceptable, but he walked 63 in 101 innings, which is nowhere close to acceptable. On so many occasions this season, Tapia was knocked out in the 1st or 2nd innings of games because he couldn't find the strike zone, and his control has now become a major concern moving forward.
Tapia's focus in 2013 was more on development than on performance, which makes his numbers a little easier to swallow, but the fact that his ERA was higher in August than it was in June or July doesn't point toward progress.
The biggest key for Tapia to become a front end or middle of the rotation starter, is his slider. He needs that third pitch in order to stay in a big league rotation down the line. However, because of his 3/4 delivery, he has difficulty getting on top of the ball and that makes his slider inconsistent, and will make it hard for him to develop that pitch into an average pitch, and may ultimately keep him from becoming a MLB starter.
The good news is that Tapia will only be 22 entering next season, and he won't be rule 5 eligible until after the 2014 season. However, if he doesn't make progress on his slider and make marked improvement on his control, his ceiling is lowered to a reliever, and at some point the Mets may have to make a decision about when to move him to the bullpen if he continues to struggle as a starter. His potential trade value has also been hurt, at least a little bit by his performance in 2013.
As far as his prospect standing, I had him as the 4th best pitching prospect on my mid-season ranking of the top pitchers following Zack Wheeler's promotion. I'm not sure where I would rank him today, but last year I had him 7th overall in the organization and right now he may not be any higher than 7th among pitchers.