Kyle Tucker is One of the Most Underrated Superstars in MLB


As the unofficial first half of the season draws to a close, there’s one thing that Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker has taught us: last season’s breakout was no fluke, and he’s a lot closer to being one of the best players in the game than people realize.

Kyle Tucker is one of the brightest superstars in MLB, and he isn’t talked about nearly enough for it. 

Tucker caught fire down the stretch last season, putting up an OPS in excess of 1.000 after the all-star game. Fans of any team would have been satisfied with his first-half performance (15 HR, 125 wRC+), especially considering it was his first full season in the Majors. However, he blew the expectations of many people straight out of the water. His second half featured a wRC+ of 177, which was the best in the entire American League. He also hit .279 in the postseason with 15 RBI to top it all off. From July to October, he was one of the most dangerous hitters in all of baseball.

To start off 2022, Tucker hit an uncharacteristically low .224 in the month of April with a wRC+ of 92, but he quickly showed that this was nothing more than a regular slump. This season overall, he has hit 17 home runs, putting him on pace for a career-high. He has also already achieved a career-high in stolen bases with 15, and in fact, he leads all full-time right fielders in the baserunning component of Fangraphs’ WAR since the start of 2020. As well, his 132 wRC+ (6th) and 2.6 fWAR (3rd) indicate that almost no right fielders have been more impactful all around the diamond.

It’s also quite likely that Tucker is due for another dominant second half, just like last season. His Statcast xwOBA of .400 and his unfortunately low batting average on balls in play (.251) are signs that his production is going to increase, and that he’s been a better hitter than his aforementioned 132 wRC+ would otherwise suggest. xwOBA is one of the main predictors for future offensive results; it essentially measures what a hitter’s output “should” be based on the quality of contact he makes at the plate, as well as his strikeout and walk rates. At the time of writing, Tucker ranks 2nd among all right fielders in this statistic, behind only Juan Soto. His xwOBA is 50 points higher than his actual wOBA, and only 21 players in all of baseball have a higher difference. His walk-to-strikeout ratio is a would-be-career-best 0.78, so he clearly has the right approach at the plate: all he needs are for those quality at-bats that end in outs to start going his way. There are plenty of signs that another white-hot stretch is on the horizon for Kyle Tucker.

He has been among the game’s elite for a full calendar year, and when taking into account both his young age of 25 and the numerous indicators that he still has yet to peak, it’s clearly not a stretch to say that Tucker is among the best corner outfielders in all of baseball. No, he is not definitively better than the Aaron Judges, Juan Sotos, and Ronald Acunas of the world, but he has proven that he belongs in that tier of players. He’s one of the few 5-tool threats in the game, and the Astros should consider locking him up long-term sooner rather than later.