On Kyle Tucker and Biding Time

Written by: Zach Volland (@NotBrianKenny)

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The 2018 season is nearly halfway over and good prospects are getting promoted to the big leagues seemingly everyday. Some have moved at lightning speed (Juan Soto) and others are ascending the many levels of the minor leagues while awaiting their big phone call (Eloy Jimenez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.).

As the season progresses, let’s take a look at one of the best hitters and overall prospects in the minor leagues: Kyle Tucker. For those new to the prospect world, Tucker is a smooth-swinging left-handed outfielder in the Astros organization. The 21 year old has been on everyone’s radar and near the top of prospect lists for his incredible bat-to-ball skills and underrated stolen base ability.

Tucker started slowly this season, but he’s been hotter than wildfire throughout the past month and finally seems on the cusp of a promotion to the big leagues. The outfielder is currently on a 17-game hitting streak, during which he’s hit .472/.513/.778 with 5 HR and 6 SB. Like I said, hotter than wildfire.

Now that you know what the numbers look like when Tucker is at his absolute best, let’s dive into the details…

What We Know

Kyle Tucker absolutely swings the lumber–with serious authority. Tucker has been dubbed “Ted Williams” by his teammates, a nickname that speaks volumes in any baseball circle. Since Williams is arguably the best left-handed hitter of all time, Tucker certainly has some shoes to fill. The toolsy outfielder is a tall, lanky left-handed hitter with a rotational swing; another staff writer for Prospects 365 compared the swing to that of Cody Bellinger, and the more I watch it, the more I agree. Tucker has a pretty conventional stance, and he positions his hands just a hair above his shoulders. He loads his hands and lower-half quietly and unloads like a coiled snake, rotating his hips and shoulders explosively but under control. His bat head enters the zone quickly and stays in the zone for a long time. At the point of contact, he consistently has excellent extension and is able to drive the ball to all fields. His swing has been labeled by some as ‘unconventional’ which might seem scary from the outside looking in, but I’m a firm believer in letting players swing individualistically, then tweak aspects of the swing as needed along the way.

The Grades

Hit Tool- 60-65: As we’ve already discussed, Tucker has naturally great bat-to-ball skills. At times, he’s forced to make adjustments like all young hitters do, but he’s going to be a middle-of-the-order hitter for the next decade with a batting average to justify it.

Game Power- 60: Tucker can drive the ball to all fields and does so with relative ease. Heck, it seems like most of his home runs are hit to left field or left center. You can YouTube tons of film and watch him pulverize balls into the left field bleachers. The video below basically epitomizes that point.

Raw Power- 65: You already know that Tucker is tall and lanky, and he uses his size to unwind when he swings. He generates above-average lag on his bat with tons of force. The power should play throughout Tucker’s career, even if the batting average regresses someday.

Speed- 45: Tucker is no Trea Turner. He’s by no means slow, but he doesn’t possess the speed that his statistics suggest. The speed outlook is perhaps the most intriguing part of Tucker’s skillset. He’s stolen no fewer than 18 bases throughout a full regular season in his professional career, but he doesn’t have the straight-line speed of an impact big league base stealer. The big question looms: Can his obviously-advanced baserunning skills translate in the spotlight of the big leagues (he already has 13 SB this season)? Even if he only musters 10-15 stolen bases per season with the Astros, it will do wonders to his already-stellar fantasy baseball viability.

Arm- 55-60: Tucker has a strong throwing arm and gets the ball where it needs to be in a hurry. He doesn’t have a ‘Yasiel Puig arm’, but he gets behind the ball and carries it when he needs to. I think his best fit for the Astros is in right field, but he could play in center field or left field without Houston losing a step as a defensive unit.

The Numbers

Tucker is slashing .318/.388/.535 and at this point in the season he has a wRC+ of 139. Not bad. Comparatively speaking, the slash and wRC+ numbers are on par for his big league outlook (but don’t you dare expect this output in the first month once he’s called up to Houston). Furthermore, Tucker’s wOBA is currently .387. In my opinion, wOBA is a telling statistic because of its ability to actually give you a clear picture of how well a player is hitting using the present league average. And the rates are in no way concerning, either: the outfielder has walked at a 10.5% rate while striking out in only 19% of his 341 plate appearances. In summation, Tucker is #good.

The Outlook

Tucker’s days in the minor leagues are almost certainly numbered. Despite the fact the Astros already have one of the best lineups in the big leagues, Tucker’s bat can hold its own anywhere in that lineup and make an already-amazing offense even better. Once he gets the call, I think there’s a chance Tucker eventually bats 5th, stockpiling RBIs while hitting behind the likes of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. Like with any prospect getting their feet wet in the big leagues, there will be ups-and-downs in Tucker’s maiden voyage later this season. If he struggles, the Astros can afford to play him situationally before turning to him in an every day role next season. Long term, Tucker has every tool necessary to be a star. He’s not an overly-polarizing player, but he should be a .270 AVG/25 HR/.850 OPS player once he unpacks his bags and settles in. Even if has to wait until August before receiving his first big league call up (that’s a possibility, so be patient), Tucker will almost certainly play a role in your league down the stretch of the fantasy season. He’ll also play a role in the Astros defending the World Series crown.

Want more? Tucker was the featured prospect in this week’s Ray’s Ramblings.

Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365

Featured image courtesy of The Athletic

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