Pittsburgh Pirates: What’s Up with Cole Tucker this Season?

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In 2014 the Pittsburgh Pirates used their #24 overall pick in the first round to select high school shortstop Cole Tucker.  Tucker is currently in the minors playing at High-A Bradenton, and is not exactly setting the world on fire.

Cole Tucker started the year on the disabled list.  He missed the end of last year with a tear in his labrum.  Returning in May of this season, Tucker headed to Low-A West Virginia.  He started there for two reasons.  First, to get back into the flow of game actions.  Second, to get reps at shortstop.  At the time Kevin Newman was at High-A Bradenton manning the shortstop position.  The Pittsburgh Pirates wanted to make sure that both players were getting as much time at their position as possible.

The good news for Tucker, was that Newman crushed High-A pitching and quickly was promoted to Double-A.  With that the Pittsburgh Pirates took the opportunity to promote Tucker to High-A. Realistically it was time for him to be at High-A anyhow, as he spent all of 2015 at Low-A (before his injury).

Tucker has been decent this year.  He has not been terrible, but he has not lived up to his first round draft pick status.  On the season at High-A, the 6’3” shortstop is batting .244 with an OPS of .627.  One definite positive is that he has played solid defense, and is also five for five in stolen base attempts.  Tucker is a very athletic player, who has solid foot speed, good athleticism in the field, and should project to be a solid hitter.

However there are a few things that are holding him back offensively.

First and for most is his off-season.  Like, Jung-Ho Kang, Tucker spent most of the off-season rehabbing from his surgery.  As we have seen with Kang and now Tucker, not having a full off-season to prepare can effect your play. Time spent in the trainer’s room and at home on the strengthening of the injury, is not time spent in the cage or on a field.  To go from rehabbing to playing against more advanced level players without the proper preparation can be a tough adjustment.

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Next is his overall strength.  When the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Cole Tucker, one note was about his build.  He is tall and lanky, with plenty of body to grow in to.  So far he has not, and at just 20 years of age, is still filling out.  Until he is able to bulk up he will continue to hit for a low slugging percentage.  On the year at High-A Tucker’s slugging percentage is a measly .310.  What else does this suggest other than not hitting for power?  It also shows that he does not make a lot of hard contact.  So this all adds up to be: if Tucker adds strength, he will hit the ball harder, which means more chances of base hits.

Cole Tucker is not a player to be low on just yet.  He is very athletic, and sometimes pure athletes take a little longer to develop.  If Cole Tucker can have a a healthy off-season where he can do baseball work and strength work then he very well will start to blossom into a future big league player.

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