Shortstop Cole Tucker
Like Keller, Cole Tucker made his MLB debut for the Pirates in 2019. After a hot start, Tucker started to struggle which led to him being optioned back to Triple-A after losing the starting shortstop job to Newman. Tucker then finished the season with a strong September.
All in all, Tucker accumulated 159 plate appearances for the Pirates in 2019. He slashed .211/.266/.361 with a .150 ISO and a wRC+ of 61. Mix in some strong defense, and despite his offensive woes Tucker posted a 0.0 fWAR.
Not long after arriving in Pittsburgh, it became clear that new general manager Ben Cherington and his staff thought highly of Tucker. The team spent much of the off-season attempting to trade second baseman Adam Frazier, with the main reasoning behind it being to create a spot in the starting lineup for Tucker. Some in Cherington’s front office even view Tucker as a future star.
Despite his struggles, there was reason to believe Tucker can breakout offensively in 2020. His .150 ISO was strong and his 36.5% hard hit rate was more than 2% above league average. His 10.2% extra base hit rate was also above league average.
Tucker’s .276 BAbip was below league average (.300). That combined with Tucker’s above average hard hit rate indicates that he was burnt by some tough luck in 2019.
In the off-season Tucker worked on his launch angle and hitting more line drives. In Grapefruit League play, this appeared to be making a difference. In 31 plate appearances he was slashing .296/.387/.667 with three home runs and a double.
If Tucker can become even league average offensively, and there is plenty of evidence that he could be even better than that, then he can be one of the better shortstops in the National League. Tucker is already one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, if he can improve his offense he will be a big time breakout candidate in 2020.