Astros: The Case for NOT Trading Kyle Tucker

Astros fans are understandably spoiled with two consecutive 100-win seasons and a World Series championship in 2017. In 2018, they got a brief taste of the next core player, and Kyle Tucker did not IMMEDIATELY produce. Therefore, some members have written him off as the next Jon Singleton or a bust. Certainly, he should be traded they say for any player perceived as meeting any need the team has. Let me explain why that would be a mistake.

Scout’s takes

Kyle Tucker is listed as the FIFTH best prospect in ALL of MLB by MLB Pipeline. He is the third best outfielder prospect. I am not going to pretend to be able to explain all of the scouting details and what they see in him. In short, he is multiple plus tools- hit, speed, power, arm- player. One of the very real benefits of the Astros moving their AAA franchise from Fresno to Round Rock is that Astros fans will now have two viable opportunities to see the best prospects at the upper levels of the minor leagues- Corpus Christi (AA) and Round Rock (AAA). To anyone who does not believe in Kyle Tucker as a baseball player, please ask someone who saw him in Fresno in 2018 what they think.

Let’s draw a comparison to the archived number five prospect player and/or number three outfielder prospect over the past few years.

2017- Ronald Acuna (#3 OF)

2016- Andrew Benintendi (#5 Prospect)

2015- Aaron Judge (#3 OF)

That is the class of prospect that Tucker is. Would you want to trade any of those players?

Comparison to Bregman

On Twitter in November, I posted this tweet to help folks understand the context of the first 72 plate appearances Tucker had and how remarkably similar they were to another player most of Astros Twitter railed on early on – Alex Bregman.

I am not claiming Tucker will be the next Bregman. I AM claiming the dismissal of Tucker as a potentially extremely valuable player in the next few years IS as premature as those who dismissed Bregman in 2016 and early 2017. If you were ready to dump Bregman on 8/11/16, then realize you have a propensity to be excessively impatient with future stars and just wait to see what Tucker becomes. You are the problem; Tucker and Bregman are not.

BABIP

The comparison of Tucker and Bregman references their early BABIPs (Batting Average on Balls in Play). While my goal here is not to educate everyone on BABIP, my goal IS to have folks understand how truly unlucky Kyle Tucker was during his 72 plate appearances. Follow this link to understand BABIP and the role of luck in it.

https://www.fangraphs.com/library/offense/babip/

At the highest level, this article describes BABIP to be a function of

  1. Defense of the fielding team a batter faces
  2. Talent Level
  3. LUCK

A few Facts about Tucker’s BABIP

  1. MLB average BABIP in 2018 was 0.296
  2. EVERY TEAM had a BABIP between 0.277 and 0.317
  3. Of all the players with 400+ PA, the lowest BABIP was 0.231, and the highest was 0.375
  4. Of all players with 70 PA, Kyle Tucker had the 5th lowest BABIP (0.176) in the MLB
  5. Kyle Tucker’s BABIP in AAA was 0.364 (11th BEST in Pacific Coast League)- he does not have a talent problem making solid contact

&Put all of that together, and you could fairly conclude that Tucker was even more unlucky than Bregman was early on and that going forward he will be just fine.

Projections for 2019

What do the projections people think Tucker would do in his rookie year?

The Baseball-Reference folks have Tucker projected at

236 PA- 6 HR- 30 R- 24 RBI- 3 SB- 0.229 AVG, 0.309 OBP, 0.381 SLG

While that is fairly underwhelming as a rookie season, what else is out there?

Currently, the Depth Chart folks at Fangraphs have Tucker projected at

33 G- 140 PA- 5 HR- 18 R- 18 RBI- 4 SB- 0.253 AVG, 0.316 OBP, 0.440 SLG, 108 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR

Another interesting projection is the Steamer600 which projects a player’s stats as a 600 PA player

142 G- 600 PA- 23 HR- 76 R- 77 RBI- 16 SB- 0.253 AVG, 0.316 OBP, 0.440 SLG, 108 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR

When you view Tucker through how he would be projected to perform in a full season as a rookie starter, it gives one hope of where his career would go. In fact, in his rookie year, Tucker would project to be quite similar to another Astros OF in 2019 (Steamer600 projections)

Tucker 142 G- 600 PA- 23 HR- 76 R- 77 RBI- 16 SB- 0.253 AVG, 0.316 OBP, 0.440 SLG, 108 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR

Reddick 142 G- 600 PA- 19 HR- 73 R- 74 RBI-  7 SB- 0.262 AVG, 0.329 OBP, 0.424 SLG, 109 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR

I think if Tucker can give you that in his rookie year, you don’t trade him. You enjoy watching him become the next member of the core of this Astros lineup in the next few years.

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