The 2021 season will be a vital one for multiple players with the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of these players is former first-round pick Cole Tucker
On Monday, we highlighted why the 2021 season will be a vital one for Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl. Another Pirate player who the 2021 season will be vital for is 2014 first-round draft pick Cole Tucker.
The 2020 season was a weird one for Tucker. After making his MLB debut in 2019, Tucker made an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career in 2020. While Tucker’s natural, and best, position is shortstop, he did not play shortstop at all in 2020.
During the 2020 season Tucker played primarily center field and right field. He also had a cup of coffee at second base playing 3 innings at the position. In the outfield, Tucker had an Outs Above Average of +1 in right field and -2 in center field. His Defensive Runs Saved was -3 at each position.
Defensively, Tucker belongs in the infield. Especially with his ability to potentially be a Gold Glove caliber shortstop. In his MLB career at shortstop, Tucker owns a +2 OAA and DRS. These results came in 2019 when he logged 318.2 innings at short.
Based on comments made by Pirate general manager Ben Cherington earlier in the offseason, it appears that the Pittsburgh Pirates plan to move Tucker back to shortstop in 2021. This certainly appears to be what is best for Tucker. Entering a vital season for his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tucker will be best served playing shortstop.
It appears that Tucker will enter Spring Training with the opportunity to win the starting shortstop job. In fact, he may even enter Spring Training as the favorite to be the team’s starting shortstop in 2021.
Throughout his minor league career the concern with Tucker was his offense. In his 93 MLB games, these concerns have shined through. During the 2021 season, it wil be vital that Tucker makes a leap as a hitter.
Tucker has a career .215/.260/.324 slash line to go with a 53 wRC+ and a .109 isolate slugging in 275 plate appearances. He’s walked just 5.5% of the time, struck out in 25.8% of PAs and his extra base hit rate is just a 7.4% extra base hit rate.
A big issue for Tucker has been his inabiltiy to consistently make quality contact. His average exit velocity in 2019 was just 87.8 MPH and that number fell to 83.1 MPH in 2020, both of these numbers are below league average. His 4.6% barrel rate in 2019 and 2.5% barrel rate in 2020 are both below league average as well.
During the 2019 season Tucker did post an above league average 36.5% hard hit rate. However, this number fell to 25.0% in 2020. As a result, his lifetime hard hit rate is 31.5% which is below MLB average.
If Tucker is going to emerge as an every day shortstop at the Major League level, then the 2021 season is vital for him. Without improved offense, and batted ball rates, Tucker will never take that next step with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hopefully, he will take that step in 2021.