Farm Report: Tapia, O'Neill, Vlad Jr. among early minor league standouts

Here’s hoping Raimel Tapia gets another look in the big leagues, soon. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Here’s hoping Raimel Tapia gets another look in the big leagues, soon. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

For a few weeks back in February and March, Colorado outfielder Raimel Tapia had serious sleeper appeal for fantasy purposes. Tapia, 24, is a career .322/.367/.459 hitter in the minors, and the Rockies were giving him an extended spring audition for leadoff duties. But then the team re-signed Carlos Gonzalez, creating a logjam of vets in the outfield. Tapia was optioned to Albuquerque.

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The Isotopes have played seven games so far, and Tapia has reached base safely in all of ’em. He’s slashing .303/.410.758 as of this writing, plus he leads the PCL in homers (4), RBIs (13), runs (7) and total bases (25). Not such a bad way start to the season. Of course it’s also not a huge surprise, because Tapia has hit .358/.387/.538 over 426 lifetime plate appearances at Triple-A. It’s a level he’s already mastered.

Whenever he gets recalled by Colorado, fantasy owners should consider the add. He has 20-steal speed and he’s hit for average at every minor league stop. Check the wheels…

Michael Kopech pitched four scoreless frames in his season debut on Monday, striking out eight while allowing just two hits and two walks. He isn’t likely to encounter many minor league hitters who can catch up to his triple-digit fastball. Last season, Kopech struck out a ridiculous 172 batters over 134.1 innings across two levels, delivering an ERA of 2.88. Control is definitely an issue (65 BB in ’17), so we’ll make no promises about his fantasy relevance in 2018. But he can throw a zillion miles an hour, which is cool. He’ll offer plenty of Ks whenever he arrives.

Tyler O’Neill has already hit four bombs and a pair of doubles for Triple-A Memphis, driving in a dozen runs. He’s not a good bet to hit for average (although he’s 10-for-28 at the moment), but he clearly has a shot to be a 30-homer at the big league level. O’Neill hit 31 home runs at Triple-A last season. There’s no spot for him in the St. Louis outfield right now, but, if injuries strike, he could get interesting in a hurry.

Dodgers prospect Walker Buehler has produced a pair of excellent starts so far, striking out 11 batters over the first 9.0 innings of his season, allowing two runs. Here’s a look at his stuff from Wednesday’s start. Buehler was something less than masterful in his brief visit to the bigs last year (2.04 WHIP), but his minor league numbers were silly (125 Ks in 88.2 IP).

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Gleyber Torres had the look of a guy returning from injury during spring play (because that’s what he was), hitting just .219 over 13 games. But he’s opened his Triple-A season going 8-for-24 with a homer, one steal and four RBIs. The former Arizona Fall League MVP is still just 21 years old. We’ll see him in the Bronx this season, and he’ll offer respectable pop and speed.

Bo Bichette (son of Dante) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (son of the legend) have both been raking at Double-A New Hampshire. Bichette is off to a 12-for-33 start, leading the Eastern League in hits, and he’s swiped three bags. Guerrero is 9-for-28 with six extra-base hits, including this moonshot. Bichette is just 20 and Vlad Jr. is 19, so we shouldn’t expect either to enter the fantasy conversation until 2019. But if they never stop hitting, perhaps the timeline will change. Either way, you want these kids in dynasty.

Giants prospect Chris Shaw just went 5-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs on Wednesday for Sacramento, so he’s now slashing .333/.355/.567. Hunter Pence hasn’t exactly been an iron man in recent seasons, so there’s a decent chance Shaw will get a look in the not-too-distant future. He hit .292/.346/.525 with 60 XBHs (24 HR) in the high minors last season.

If you’re looking for Nick Senzel hype, we took care of that on Tuesday. Give it a read. He’s close.

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