The Pittsburgh Pirates minor league season is just getting underway. Over the last month Rum Bunter has released the top 20 prospects in the organization. Here is number four.
Over the last few years, the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system has been considered one of the best in baseball. However, after enjoying a period of playoff baseball, and in turn picking lower in the draft, they have seen their system fall toward the middle of the pack. Still, rankings by scouting websites are not everything. They have plenty of intriguing prospects who could break out just as much as a team with a top farm system.
With that being said, we have come up with our top 20 prospects for the 2018 season. The articles will look at each player, starting at 20 and working toward one. So far we have looked at pitchers Clay Holmes at number 20, Gage Hinsz at number 19, Travis MacGregor at 18, and left-handed starter Braeden Ogle at 17. The first hitter to show up on our countdown was Calvin Mitchell at number 16 and Oneil Cruz at number 15. Coming in at number 14 was 2017 draft pick Steven Jennings.
Then was a pair of international prospects in right-hander Luis Escobar at number 13 overall and outfielder Lolo Sanchez at number 12. Right-handed starter and 2010 draftee Nick Kingham came in at number 11. Hard-throwing left-hander Taylor Hearn came in at number 10 and former first-round pick Kevin Newman at number nine. Switch hitting outfielder Bryan Reynolds and left-handed hitting middle infielder Kevin Kramer occupied the eight and seven spots respectively. Number six was third baseman Colin Moran, and number five is a Ke’Bryan Hayes. The fourth overall prospect is also an infielder.
Number Four Overall
Back in 2014, the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Cole Tucker with the 24th overall pick. At the time, it was not the most popular pick among fans. There were plenty of other higher ranked prospects on the board, such as Derek Fisher, Jake Gatewood, and Monte Harrison. Yet, details started to come out that many other teams liked Tucker. In fact, it was reported that the Oakland Athletics were prepared to draft Tucker with the very next pick in the draft. So what did the Pittsburgh Pirates get in the prep shortstop from Arizona?
On draft night, it was noted that Tucker’s best attributes were his size and athleticism. He came into the organization standing at close to 6’4” and considered to be athletic enough to stick at shortstop. It is rare in Major League Baseball to see shortstop that size. The other appealing factor about Tucker was that fact that he was a switch-hitter, who showed signs of the ability to hit effectively from both sides of the plate. The Bucs gave the former University of Arizona commit a $1.8 million bonus, which was below the assigned slot value.
Tucker signed relatively quickly with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was able to play in 2014. He was assigned to the Gulf Coast League like most high school draftees. He appeared in 48 games for the Bucs GCL team, putting up a solid slash line in his professional debut, hitting .267/.368/.356 with two home runs and 13 stolen bases. The biggest thing he showed off was his athleticism and advanced approach to hitting at such a young age.
The Pittsburgh Pirates decided that Tucker was ready to advance to full season ball in 2015. They assigned him to the Low-A West Virginia Power. The projectable shortstop immediately proved why he was a first round pick, slashing .293/.322/.377 in 71 games. He only struck out 49 times and showed off his base running ability by swiping 25 bases. However, his impressive first full campaign was cut short when he had to undergo surgery to repair his torn labrum.
The torn labrum not only cost him the end of his 2015 season, but also the beginning of his 2016 season. He went from a chance to being promoted for High-A in 2015, to having to start the year in Low-A again. He appeared in 15 games at Low-A before was promoted for the final 65 games at High-A. Across the two levels he batted .242/.311/.327. These numbers were, and still are, the worst of his minor league career. It was expected however with him rehabbing all off-season and not getting a proper offseason of preparation.
The former first round pick got back to showing off his potential in 2017. He did start the year in High-A, which was to be expected after struggling in 2016. However, this time Tucker tore up the Florida State League. The switch hitter slashed .285/.364/.426 belting 25 extra base hits in 68 games. The most impressive stat though came on the base paths when he swiped 36 bags to lead the league. He was then bumped up to Double-A for the final 42 games. While his numbers dipped some, he still did relatively well for his first taste of the upper minors. He slashed .257/.349/.377, posting 11 extra base hits and 11 stolen bases.
Future at Short
With shortstop prospect Kevin Newman at Triple-A, Tucker will once again play in Double-A to start the year. Tucker is one of the rising prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. At one point, Newman looked like he would be the future shortstop of the team, and he still very well could. However, Tucker has passed him up in terms of prospect status and is definitely the top infield prospect in the system. He truly can be a five tool player. He has done a good job at getting on base, strikes out less than once per game, has great speed, and will be able to stick at shortstop. While Tucker’s power is still developing, he is 6’4” and 190 pounds, he should be able add plenty of power as he continues to fill out. Tucker will no doubt move up to Triple-A at some point this season.