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Tap The Speed Force: Time for the Rockies to run

Drew Creasman Avatar
February 20, 2020

As Colorado Rockies players arrive in Scottsdale in anticipation of the start of Spring Training games on February 22, they know they are going to have to answer a few questions about Nolan Arenado and the offseason drama.

But they also know that, whatever comes from all of this, each individual has to be focused on what they can do to get better and help the team win.

Some of the first bits of non-Arenado-related audio are now emanating from the facilities at Salt River Fields. And outfielder Raimel Tapia’s stated goal of swiping 30 bases may serve as an interesting possible answer for how a team that made minimal changes from a bad year might get better.

Run, Rockies. Run.

The possibility of using their raw speed and athleticism to their advantage is one that has arisen in each of the last couple of seasons as younger players like Tapia, David Dahl, Garrett Hampson, and Trevor Story have become increasingly more important parts of the team.

Of course, Story more or less cemented himself right away – though, year two was a bit rough – and he really didn’t start to turn on the jets until year three when he more consistently started to get on base.

Therein lies the key. Dahl has proven an ability to get on base, he just needs to stay on the field to let his legs become a weapon in all facets. Hampson needs dramatic improvement in his on-base percentage in order for his obvious base-stealing ability to become a factor.

Sam Hilliard will also be added to this mix in 2020, bringing with him an exceptional track record of using his near-elite-level speed to his advantage in the minors.

Tapia is in a similar camp to Hampson in terms of needing to get on base more in order to start revving up the engine. He also needs to get better at his reads of pitchers, and first step if he is going to take bags at an acceptable success rate.

But manager Bud Black loves what he is hearing out of the young man who was briefly handed the startling left-fielder job over Ian Desmond last August before going down with an injury.

“It’s a big number, but I like the target. I like where his head’s at,” he said.

“We’ve encouraged Tap to run and to feel comfortable running,” he continued. “That’s part of our message to him is to go for it. Feel as though you can steal and be confident about it. I think he’s got to overcome that fear a little bit. We want to encourage him to break through those barriers. He’s got natural speed, it’s a matter of fine tuning.”

Colorado has always been in a tricky spot when it comes to trying to steal bases. After all, you don’t want to get thrown out at second when a ball in the gap can score you from first. But they’ve also had a great deal of success taking the extra base.

One of the natural results of this group of speedsters getting on base more (and getting more playing time in general) will be an increase in the constant pressure put on opposing defenses.

For a team that will have to scrap, claw and fight for every win they get in 2020, these little wins can start to add up. And they will need every extra inch they can take.


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