Can Kyle Tucker Take the Next Step This Season for the Astros

Fans may be surprised to learn how similar Alex Bregman's first appearances in the big leagues went compared to youngster Kyle Tucker.
Fans may be surprised to learn how similar Alex Bregman's first appearances in the big leagues went compared to youngster Kyle Tucker. Photo by Jack Gorman
There is no greater difficulty in player evaluation than in major league baseball. Players drafted highly might bust and those drafted 20 rounds later might be in the Hall of Fame one day. With young guys coming straight out of high school and players that don't mature sometimes for years, it can often be a crap shoot.

But, the Astros have been pretty damn good with their projections since Jeff Lunhow took the wheel as GM. In those years, guys with names like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman have made significant impacts on the Astros, all part of the first championship in franchise history and all part of the young nucleus that promises to keep them in the hunt for more titles.

Last season in the latest of that string of call ups was outfielder Kyle Tucker. Drafted fifth overall in the 2015 draft, he is one of the Astros top ranked prospects and one of the best lefty prospects in all of baseball. Unfortunately, he came out of the gate a bit slowly last season causing fans to wonder if Tucker might be less than what we had hoped.

Of course, a disappointing season, particularly offensively, will inspire questions, but are fans right to be concerned?

Short answer: probably not.

Tucker has had only 72 plate appearance (64 total at bats) in his major league career. His slash line is a paltry .141/.226/.236 with only nine hits including two doubles and a triple. He also had 13 strikeouts but six walks, not an awful number for a youngster. Certainly, these numbers aren't what anyone including the Astros want to see out of Tucker, but when you consider another Astros' start, it doesn't seem that awful.

Bregman, who was drafted second overall just three years ahead of Tucker, struggled mightily when he was first called up. His first 72 plate appearances came over a stretch of 16 games beginning in July of 2016. His slash line was .156/.236/.219 with 10 hits, with four doubles. He had 16 strikeouts and seven walks.

Those are strikingly similar numbers for these two young players. Now, in Bregman's case, he turned things around and in that first season, finished .264/.313/.478 with 53 hits, eight home runs and 13 doubles. He struck out 52 times and walked 15. Not exactly All-Star numbers, but clearly he was trending in the right direction.

What is important to note about Bregman's stats is that it wasn't really until the tail end of that year and into 2017 that he began to see his star rise. Like most young players, he needed time to figure things out. It's also worth pointing out that Bregman was a year older than Tucker when he entered the majors and had some college time under his belt before the transition to the big leagues.

At now just 22 years old, Tucker will still need time to mature, both physically and mentally. All indications are he will, but, much like the Astros All-Star third baseman, we will all need to be patient.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke