Houston Astros Draft Targets: Outfielder Kyle Tucker
By Eric Huysman
Preston Tucker has risen quickly through the Houston Astros minor league ranks to earn his first stint with the Astros. While his initial stats didn’t justify it, his approach to the game made the Astros give him another chance. They sent down Robbie Grossman instead of Tucker when activating George Springer. The Astros see what type of player Preston can be, so of course they are interested in his younger brother, Kyle Tucker, out of Plant High in Tampa, Florida. Unlike Preston, Kyle is expected to be drafted directly out of high school.
Why should Astros fans care about Kyle Tucker? It’s because Baseball America has him listed as the 10th best draft prospect here. They have the Astros taking Brendan Rodgers or Dansby Swanson with the second overall pick, but also have them reaching for Kyle Tucker with the fifth round pick as well. If they select both Rodgers and Tucker, the Astros will be making a bold statement about their farm system.
Who is Kyle Tucker?
Tucker is currently ranked by Baseball America as the second best high school hitting prospect for the 2015 draft, behind Brendan Rodgers. Tucker is a better-ranked prospect than his brother was when he was drafted, and has one of the purest swings in this year’s draft class. Preston was not drafted out of high school and told me in an interview that he wasn’t ready out of high school. The experts don’t think the same thing about Kyle because he is a more all-around player than his older brother when he was drafted.
Kyle Tucker has a tall and thin frame right now, but the experts believe he can fill out a little with more muscle. When he adds some muscle to him, he should be able to hit a for above-average batting average and gap power. The Astros will probably be choosing between Tucker and Daz Cameron with this pick, but most likely will go with Tucker because of his upside in the power department. I have meant to write about Cameron, just haven’t had a chance yet. (Picture Tucker as a Richie Sexton)
Let’s look at MLB Pipeline’s Scouting Grades on Kyle Tucker, he is ranked as the eighth overall prospect.
“Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55.”
These grades show him as an above average player, whose best skill is his hitting tool.
Through his high school career, he has an averaged a .435 BA for his four years, including hitting .556 as a sophomore. His home runs have ranged between two and nine per year, but the last three years he has nine, nine, and eight, respectively. He has a high school career average of 1.472 on-base plus slugging percentage while stealing about six bases each season. Thanks to Max Preps website for his high school stats.
Why Would the Astros Want Tucker?
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The Astros have George Springer,Jake Marisnick
, and Preston Tucker in the fold. They also haveBrett Phillips
, andTony Kemp,
among others, being groomed for the outfield positions. As the Astros have learned this season, you can never have too many outfielders in the system. Outfielders can play in three spots in the outfield, and can also hit in the designated hitter slot. The amount of talent the Astros have in the system would allow Tucker plenty of time to develop in the minor leagues, without having to rush the high school student through.
If the Astros do select Brendan Rodgers and Kyle Tucker, they will be making a statement that these picks are for the distant future, not for an immediate need for the team. If Houston was not confident with any position in the system, they would draft a more experienced college player to reach the big leagues quicker. Does this mean they are extending the process? Yes and no.
Part of the process is to constantly add young talent to the Astros system through the draft. That should be the goal of every draft year, so they don’t end up like the Astros in the last years of the Drayton McLane’s years of ownership.
Houston depleted their minor league system with trades that helped them win immediately, so the Astros had a very weak feeder system to the bigs. The difference with the process from here on out is that the Astros will have to make better choices with late draft picks because they’ll be finishing the season with a better record. Therefore, they would be picking players for four years down the road versus two years, for now.
This strategy appears to show that the Astros have confidence in the immediate future; stretch-drive trades could set them back a little with their recent success.
What Are Others Saying?
"“Tucker is listed at 6-foot-4 and 175 lbs., and he stands out most for his offensive potential. He has excellent bat speed and a sweet left-handed swing geared for consistent, hard contact. Tucker projects to hit for both average and power, especially once he adds some muscle to his rail thin frame. His sound approach suggests he’ll draw his fair share of walks going forward. Tucker is a good athlete, not a great one, and chances are he’ll have to move out of center field and into a corner spot down the road. He has the arm for the right field but needs to improve his routes. Either way, Tucker’s a bat first prospect.”"
"“As a hitter, Tucker is unbelievably impressive. There are few prospects I can think of with swings as smooth and controlled as Tucker’s is at his age. He uses all of his broad frame to his advantage, and keeps his lower half in tune with his upper body with each repetition. His swing path doesn’t get too long, and his balance at the plate is immaculate. He has a powerful line drive stroke and gets good loft while generating lots of leverage. Tucker’s hit and power tools both project as plus, and in the eyes of many (including me), he has the best swing in this year’s class.”"
The Astros have a luxury that most teams don’t have, which is two early first round picks. It was earlier assumed that the Astros would take a college pitcher after missing out on Brady Aiken last year, but they can shock everyone by taking two hitters. Let’s hope that the Tucker brothers would have more success playing together than the Upton brothers have had.
For more on other potential draft picks:
I wrote about Brendan Rodgers here.
I wrote about Michael Matuella here.
I wrote about Walker Buehler here.
I wrote about Dansby Swanson here.
Next: Keeping Up with Brett Phillips (Interview)
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