Domingo Tapia, who was put on the minor league disabled list earlier this year with elbow discomfort, underwent Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. The Dominican right-hander, who had been transitioning into a more permanent bullpen role this season, was extremely erratic and ineffective in the limited innings he pitched. He appeared in three games for the Binghamton Mets and struggled in all of them.
Tapia allowed 8 earned runs in 1.2 innings pitched, good for a 43.20 ERA. Of the 78 total pitches he threw in those three appearances, 31 were strikes and 47 were balls. The twenty-one batters he faced combined to hit .500/.750/.800 against him.
The Mets signed Tapia as an eighteen-year-old out of La Victoria, Dominican Republic, during the 2009-2010 signing period, one of a strong crop of pitchers signed out of the country that year (Ramon Estevez, Gabriel Feliz, Julian Hilario, Rainy Lara, Yoryi Nuez, Persio Reyes, Ruben Reyes, Lenny Rosario, and Gabriel Ynoa). He was initially assigned to the Dominican Summer League but was quickly promoted stateside, to the GCL Mets of the Gulf Coast league (Rookie-Ball). He made 10 starts with them and was fairly successful, posting a 3.45 ERA/3.37 FIP in 47 innings with 10 walks (1.9 BB/9) and 29 strikeouts (5.6 K/9). In 2011, he began the year with the Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian League (Rookie-Ball) and made a single appearance with the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League (Short-A) at the end of the year. He made 11 starts with Kingsport, posting a 3.78 ERA/4.39 FIP in 50 innings with 16 walks (2.9 BB/9) and 30 strikeouts (5.4 K/9), and he tossed six scoreless innings in his lone Cyclones start, allowing five hits, walking none, and striking out six.
The twenty-year-old spent the entire 2012 season with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League (Low-A). He appeared in 20 games, with 19 of them being starts, and was moderately successful overall, posting a 3.98 ERA/3.07 FIP in 108.2 innings. He allowed 92 hits, walked 32 batters (2.7 BB/9) and struck out a career high 101 batters (8.4 K/9). The following year, Tapia was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League (High-A). Appearing in 23 games, 22 of them being starts, the right-hander posted a 4.62 ERA/3.88 FIP in 101.1 innings, allowing 87 hits, walking 63 batters (5.6 BB/9) and striking out 89 (7.9 K/9). Owing to a stockpile of pitching prospects that the organization had developed and issues that Tapia still needed to work on, the right-hander was not promoted for the 2014 season and remained in St. Lucie. Repeating the Florida State League, the right-hander did not particularly improve. He made 21 starts, and posted a 3.96 ERA/4.39 FIP in 109 innings, allowing 104 hits, walking 51 batters (4.2 BB/9) and striking out 56 (4.6).
Over the course of his career, Tapia's bread-and-butter was his fastball. His four-seam fastball consistently sat in the mid-to-upper 90s and topped out at or just below triple digits and had plenty of sink to it. His two-seam fastball was a few ticks slower, sitting in the mid-90s, but had more run and just as much sink. At times, he tinkered with a changeup and a slider, but as Mike Newman of Fangraphs speculated, Tapia's very delivery might have limited his ability to ever throw an effective breaking ball. The right-hander threw from a very low ¾ arm slot, practically whipping the ball sidearm, parallel to the ground. In order to develop or throw an effective off-speed pitch, he would need to either alter the angle of his delivery or slow down his arm speed, tipping off the pitch.