The Houston Astros organization has become very deep in talent. Keeping up with 25 guys on the major league roster is often a very difficult task for the casual fan. Let alone knowing the organization’s prospects versus depth. One guy who has been overlooked since being drafted is OF/DH Preston Tucker.
Originally from Florida, the 23-year old has just begun his second full professional season with the Houston Astros organization. Tucker had an impressive collegiate career for the University of Florida. During those years he slashed .329/.402/.577 while maintaining solid walk rates and a low strikeout rate. A combination generally attributed to being a Luhnow-type player, his name was called in the 7th round of the 2012 Amateur Draft.
The Astros invited him to Spring Training 2014. This indicates that he is close to the major leagues. And from Astros GM Jeff Luhnow via Baseball America:
"He’s kind of a sleeper. There were a couple of people in our meetings that said that he’s probably our best bat in the minor leagues . . . He’s got a chance to be on our club in the next couple of years."
So if he has major league potential, how has he flown under-the-radar for so long? When he was originally drafted most scouts agreed that his defensive skills were average at best. While he may not be a five-tool player like recent call-up George Springer, Tucker can do awesome things offensively.
Preston Tucker (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
Preston signed in July 2012 and was assigned to the Tri-City ValleyCats roster. During his time with that club he hit 8 homers while driving in 38 runs in 42 games. While playing as part of the New York Penn League he won Player of the Week honors twice. The awards continued to pile up during the 2013 season. As a member of the Lancaster Jethawks, he was named to the California League Mid-Season All Star roster. His time in Lancaster saw a slash of .326/.384/.544 with 15 homers and 79 RBI for 75 games of play. A promotion to the Corpus Christi Hooks saw diminished numbers with 10 homers and 29 RBI in 60 games.
A “slump” in comparison to his Lancaster numbers, Tucker compiled a .297/.368/.505 line. Preston tallied 103 RBIs along with 32 doubles, 2 triples, and 25 home runs. This impressive line earned him honors, this time, as an MiLB Organizational All-Star.
With the 2013 campaign that George Springer enjoyed last season, I cannot help but wonder if Tucker is capable of achieving a similar season. Ultimately Preston does lack the arm and speed elements of Springer’s game. But the offensive potential is there. And so far for AA Corpus Christi: 4 homers, 6 doubles, 11 RBI and a slash line of .307/.358/.547. Overall for this level Tucker has improved to a .276 batting average for 77 games.