Injuries have led to the Pirates summoning Cole Tucker from Triple-A, and considering the questions they already had at shortstop it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever relinquish the job. That’s at least the type of potential the 22-year old switch-hitting speedster has, assuming he’s ready to produce at the highest level.
There is no question that his speed is his calling card, having stolen as many as 47 bases in a season (back in 2017). Last season he went 35-for-47 at Double-A in 517 AB and he was continuing to run at Triple-A this season, already swiping 5 bags.
He’s also continued to show a solid approach at the plate, with a 19.7% strikeout rate and 10.6% walk rate at Triple-A this season. That said he has seen his SwStr% rise, and while it’s a small sample size in his first taste of the highest level of the minors, it is something that should be monitored:
- Double-A (2018) – 8.4%
- Triple-A (2019) – 10.2%
He’s also shown a little bit more power, with 3 HR over 66 PA (he had 5 HR in all of 2018) before homering in his MLB debut yesterday. Is he starting to look to hit home runs, thus bringing more risk in his strikeout rate? He saw his fly ball rate go down (40.9% to 34.9%), so that doesn’t appear to be the case. It’s possible that he’s simply adjusting to the level and would’ve improved the SwStr% naturally, though there’s also the risk that the number takes another step backwards in the Majors.
Injuries have often been an issue over the course of his career, and this preseason scouting report from MLB.com will be something to watch:
Aside from staying healthy, it’s always been a matter of Tucker learning to control his 6-foot-3 frame consistently, especially offensively. During his struggles at the start of the 2018 season, his lower half would get off-balance in the box, his stride would get too big and he’d lose connection with his lower half. Late in the year and in the AFL, he was feeling his base better, driving the ball more consistently with extra-base authority.
Maybe the power has been added thanks to the improvements he’s made, and if that’s the case even a slight regression in his strikeout rate isn’t going to be a huge negative. He posted a .407 SLG in the second half last season, compared to .324 in the first half, and that included a .454 in July. Obviously the early season success may be a bit extreme, but how many players in the Majors currently offer the potential to go .270ish/12/30?
There are going to be some bumps and he’s hardly a lock to produce, but with that type of upside he’s well worth targeting.
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs