While prospects come, and some go, the Astros were hoping to find gold with a 7th round pick from the 2012 draft. They selected Preston Tucker with the 212th overall pick, while the mock drafts had him going in the third round. With the way he has played the past three seasons in the minor leagues, the other 29 team’s loss might be the Astros gain. Scouts have said that Tucker played well, but that he played over his ability and will not have the same success.
In an interview with Preston Tucker, I asked him what his offseason training program has been getting ready for 2015. He responded by saying “This offseason, I trained at the University of Florida with my old strength coach, Paul Chandler, in the fall. I’ve been training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL the past few weeks.”
In terms of what he said he has been focusing on this offseason, he said that “I’ve been working a ton on my hitting, but I’m still trying to become a more complete player overall.” He knows this is his season to shine, with his dreams on the brink of coming through.
During the interview I asked Tucker if he was glad he went to College instead of going pro as un-drafted free agent. “Definitely, I wasn’t a prospect out of High School so college was my only option. I wouldn’t have been ready. I learned much in college!”
What are those same scouts who looked at his college stats at University of Florida (below) thinking now about not giving Tucker some love?
The Astros could use some of that low strikeout ability at the major league level right now. So what has he done at the minor league level so far? He has done nothing but hit since he donned an Astros minor league uniform. In fact, the 2012 Draft could be one of the most successful draft class ever with names like Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Rio Ruiz, Brett Phillips, Brady Rodgers, Preston Tucker, and many others.
Minor Leagues so Far
Lets Look at What Tucker has done in the Minors since being drafted in 2012.
In 2014 between AA and AAA Tucker hit 24 HRs with 120 RBI’s, which is very impressive. One alarming thing to consider, is that in the two seasons that Tucker was promoted, he struggled adjusting a little to the higher level pitching. This table shows his strikeout percentage rose after each promotion, but he adjusted to the pitching at that level the next year. “I have learned a lot more since college as well,” said Tucker referring to his time in the minors.
So based on that history, he should be primed for a great season with the Fresno Grizzles, before hopefully his call up to the Astros. I asked Tucker what was the difference between AA and AAA, and he said “Guys in AAA are older and many have big league time, so pitchers are smarter and have better stuff. But like with any level, I try to adjust and prepare myself to play in the MLB.”
With Preston Tucker probably ticketed to AAA Fresno to start the season, I asked Tucker what he thinks of the move of the Triple-A team from Oklahoma City to Fesno. He said “I think moving to Fresno will help if anything. It seemed like a hitter-friendly park and the ball carried more to center and right than it did at OKC.” If that’s the case, the 5 home runs he hit at Triple-A after promotion last year will be a distant memory. He hit 17 home runs in Corpus Christi prior to the 5 hit at OKC, so depending on how long he stays at Fresno, he has a possibility for 25+ home runs.
Does he like playing for Tony D at Triple-A? ” I loved playing for Tony, he really knows the game and everyone wants to play for him. I’m excited to see him in spring training!” As much as I want Tucker to play for Tony D, I’d rather see him wearing orange and white with the Astros in 2015. So Preston, don’t get too comfortable in Fresno.
What’s in Store for Preston Tucker in 2015?
If you ask former Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg, he will tell you that Tucker is ready for the MLB right now and could make team out of spring training.
— Morgan Ensberg (@MorganEnsberg) January 13, 2015
On Tuesday January 13, it was announced that 7 of the top 10 Astros prospects according to Baseball America were invited to 2015 spring training. Tucker does not rank as a top 10 Astro prospect, but he does rank 19th out of top 20 according to MLBpipeline.
I asked Preston Tucker if he pays attention to top prospect list, and he said ” I’ve seen it, but don’t pay much attention to it because it really has no affect on my career. Being a top prospect might help your popularity some, but production is much more important.”
Even though Tucker is not highlighting the Astros prospect invitees as Carlos Correa and Mark Appel are, he’s ready for the new season. This is the second year that Preston Tucker was invited to attend, and he caught the eye of former Astros skipper Bo Porter in 2013 because of his hitting. Ensberg might be right, if Tucker lights it up during spring training, he might catch A.J. Hinch‘s eye, which might earn a spot of the 25-man roster.
I asked Tucker if he was excited to be attending spring training for the second year in a row, and he said “I’m definitely excited to be invited. It’s another opportunity to prove that I can help our big league club win games.” Then I addressed the 500 pound gorilla in the room with Tucker, how do you feel about first-base?
In an article on Tuesday, Jose de Jesus Ortiz wrote that “The Astros also announced that third baseman Colin Moran, slugging outfielder-first baseman Preston Tucker, outfielder Andrew Aplin, catchers Luis Flores and Tyler Heineman, righthanders Jordan Jankowski, Brady Rodgers and Jason Stoffel and infielders Joe Sclafani, Matt Duffy and Nolan Fontana also received non-roster invitations.”
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Before I go any further, I even stressed this to Tucker. I still believe that Jon Singleton is the answer at 1st base, he has had some growing pains at the big league level. When I read Jose de Jesus Ortiz’s article today, I did a double take when I read ” slugging outfielder-first baseman Preston Tucker!” He plays first base, which would put some competition at first base between Singleton, Duffy, and Tucker.
So I asked Preston Tucker how much he has played first base in the minor leagues, he said “I didn’t play much first this past year, but I have a lot of experience playing there in college. It’s something I would need to work more at if it becomes more of a possibility but right now I’m really focusing at becoming a better outfielder.”
With Singleton’s contract, he will be given every chance to be the everyday first baseman. The competition might help Singleton become the player he should be. This could also be the way Tucker makes the team out of spring training as a back-up at first and 4th outfielder, but the Astros will probably rather him get the everyday at-bats in the minors to help his development.
When he does get the call to the big leagues, who will be the first person he calls and tells. Unfortunately it was not Eric Huysman. “I’ll probably just try to get my whole family on speaker phone if I can.”
I asked how Tucker felt hitting 2 home runs at Minute Maid Park in minor league exhibition game last year, “Just playing at MMP was an unforgettable experience. And I definitely feel more comfortable about playing there now. I just try to put together good at-bats and let the numbers work themselves out. My job as a hitter is to drive in runs, so the situation affects my approach.”
The interview took a wrong turn towards the end. Who was Tucker’s favorite baseball player growing up? “My favorite players were Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Edmonds.” As an Astros fan I can respect the Griffey nod, but why did it have to be Astro killer Jim “Freaking” Edmonds?! I jokingly expressed my displeasure with that as an Astros fan, and his response was classic. “Ha, he hit tanks!”
Here’s hoping that Preston Tucker is hitting “tanks” soon at Minute Maid Park.