When George Springer landed on the seven day disabled list last week it was no big surprise that the Houston Astros turned to Preston Tucker to fill the void left by the electric Springer. Tucker was leading the Pacific Coast League in numerous power categories including home runs and rbi and had certainly deserved his shot in the majors. In an odd twist, when Springer returned for Wednesday’s game, it was Tucker who stayed, and fourth outfielder Robbie Grossman who was sent to Fresno. With a spot on the roster seemingly secured, the big question now is how much playing time will the 24 year old outfielder receive?
In last night’s game against the Blue Jays, Tucker got the start as the team’s DH going 3-for-4 with an rbi, raising his batting average to .286 through 14 at bats. Add in Tucker’s three walks in the majors, and he has been on base seven times in limited opportunities, compared to Grossman’s total of twelve times in 49 at bats. It’s clear why the Astros chose Tucker after Thursday’s performance.
The one sure way for Tucker to see more playing time would be for him to make an impact against lefties. Colby Rasmus will see most of the playing time in the outfield with Springer and Jake Marisnick, but Rasmus has struggled against southpaws this season, going 4-for-24 (.167) with a single rbi. Tucker’s two rbi double in the seventh off of Aaron Loup was his first major league hit against a lefty, giving him an early average of .200.
In Fresno this season Preston Tucker was hitting .364 against lefties, going 12-for-33 with two home runs and nine runs batted in. The potential is definitely there for Tucker to see more playing time in those situations, whether it be against a tough starter or in pinch-hitting situations.
Jake Marisnick has also struggled against left-handed pitching, batting .206 in 34 at bats, but I have a hard time seeing him riding the pine unless his bat becomes completely ineffective. Marisnick’s defense has proven to be elite in centerfield, and this team has shown that speed and defense are what keep them in games when the big bats aren’t producing. Unfortunately, Jake is 4-for-36 (.111) in his last ten games, so a night off may be in his future this weekend.
With veteran lefty Mark Buehrle starting on Sunday, Tucker could see his next starting gig then. His chances may be few and far between, but if Tucker capitalizes on the opportunities he’s given like he did on Thursday night, he could see more and more playing time in the near future and eventually push one of the other outfielder (ok, Rasmus) out the door. Of course, this will be a process and nobody is being traded tomorrow, but there is a lot of potential with Preston Tucker and his level swing. He just needs the chance.