The Astros’ top position prospect has unintentionally become a divisive figure this offseason.
Prospects in baseball are never a guarantee. Sure, plenty of prospects have succeeded, but many have also failed. It’s the unfortunate reality, especially in light of the historically unjustifiable compensation for minor leaguers.
I’m sure that the Astros realize not all of their top prospects will pan out for various reasons. We’ve already witnessed it a few times during the past five years alone. But it would be presumptuous to state that Kyle Tucker, currently Houston’s top position prospect, is a sure-fire anything. In other words, the 21-year old has loads of potential, but he hasn’t done anything of substance in the majors. Not proven, but also not a bust.
Today I want to break down why we see such a divide in opinion on the young outfielder this offseason. There are valid points at both sides, but blindly yelling is a poor way to go about it.
Current value vs. future value
Let’s say general manager Jeff Luhnow wanted to acquire an impact major leaguer today; he likely could if Tucker was included in a potential trade. After all, Tucker is considered one of the game’s best prospects right now. It is also justifiable if the Astros went this route.
Any potential trade would hinge on who Houston received in return, and how many years of club control is involved. For example, the continued rumors surrounding J.T. Realmuto, who is only under club control through 2020. Tucker has six years of club control on the books for whoever he plays for in the future. A high price to pay for a needed short-term boost, which may be justifiable with another parade in Houston.
The Astros’ unluckiest hitter in 2018
Earlier this offseason I found that Tucker was possibly the unluckiest hitter on Houston’s roster in 2018. By Statcast batted ball data, the age-21 outfielder had a .206 wOBA compared to a projected wOBA of .326. He also recorded the highest average exit velocity (90 MPH) on batted balls that ended with an out.
So, I wouldn’t put too much stock into his 28 wRC+ in his debut season. I’d believe it is reasonable to expect better results from Tucker in 2019. After all, he already has success in the minors, for what its worth. Look beyond the surface to see why Tucker didn’t immediately succeed.
Early judgment on short-sample size
If you surf the comment section for the Astros online, you’ll find plenty of opinions. One of the more prevalent notions was the idea that Tucker was already a bust based on 72 plate appearances. Um, yeah, I am not sure how people jumped to that conclusion already. Honestly, I am not sure if Tucker will succeed in the majors. He could very well be a success, a bust, or somewhere in between.
However, it is premature to make such a statement based on the limited playing time. Remember Alex Bregman‘s debut? Yes, I am hearing crickets now.
Expectations vs. reality
When the Astros entered the 2018 season, it was expected that Tucker would contribute sooner or later. His immediate results did not meet the sky-high expectations for the fanbase of a recent World Series club. Tucker, to his credit, appears confident in his ability to make the necessary adjustments to his overall approach in 2019.
Houston is currently in the middle of a win-now window as key decisions await in future offseasons. For example, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are only under contract for one more season. George Springer isn’t too far behind along with Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. The course of the franchise will partially hinge on Tucker’s future, whether it occurs with the Astros or not.