DENVER -- For a top prospect filling the voids of midseason attrition, the Rockies' Raimel Tapia publicly offers a telling reveal on how he plays and how he'd like to be perceived. The speedy outfielder's Twitter bio reads: "I like to Swing, I like to Hit, so I swing the bat con mucho SWAGGER!"
Tapia's exuding confidence is resonating, particularly after lacing a walk-off single in Thursday's 10-9 win over the Giants, pushing the Rockies back into sole possession of first place in the National League West -- a day after he became the first NL rookie this year to log four hits in a game, in Wednesday's 5-1 win over the Pirates.
Thursday marked the third start for the rookie with highlight-shaded hair. He's 8-for-13 in those games, this after starting the year in an 0-for-15 funk.
"He believes that he's really a good player, which is awesome," manager Bud Black said. "I love that. I think it shows in his at-bats. It shows in his demeanor, in the clubhouse, in the dugout, on the field. Even though he's been an up-and-down big leaguer so far, I think he's going to be a big leaguer. I really do, for a long period of time."
But how long, at least for now?
The club's No. 3 prospect, per MLBPipeline.com, Tapia was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque on June 6 and remained after Gerardo Parra strained his right quad and was placed on the DL a day later. At full strength, the Rockies have a surplus of outfield depth -- notably exhibited upon Ian Desmond's return in late April, which forced Black to distribute playing time among first baseman Mark Reynolds, Desmond and Parra, while platooning off-days for the trio and Carlos Gonzalez.
On Thursday, for the second straight day, Tapia filled in in right field for Gonzalez, who is in an 0-for-24 skid dating back to June 7 and went hitless on the club's road trip, but will likely be reinstalled Friday, Black said.
"They normally tell me a day ahead of time of 'Hey, you're going to be playing tomorrow,' but they'll never tell me, 'Hey, you're going to be playing five times in this week,'" Tapia said through an interpreter. "But I always just come to the ballpark ready to go, ready to contribute however I can."
Tapia exhibits impressive speed on the basepaths and in the cavernous Coors Field gaps, and even with a small sample size of just eight hits this year, he's registered three of the Rockies' top 10 fastest home-to-first times, according to Statcast™.
"I came up and I wasn't really hitting very well and I was kind of struggling, but just keeping my faith and just knowing and having people support me and help me through has been able to help," Tapia said. "Because in those moments, you know you can do it. You know you have that confidence, so being able to just remind yourself that I have the confidence, I know I can do it. Keep working hard. Keep doing your best and know that you belong at this level and that you can play here."