He has been on the Astros’ fans radar since before the draft of 2015.
Kyle Tucker was taken in that June 2015 draft at the tender age of 18 and the Astro fans have been watching him with our peripheral vision as he has climbed the minor leagues. He had some of his best early work at hitter-friendly Lancaster, but by 2018 and 2019 he was putting up some strong numbers at AAA (.332 BA/.989 OPS in 2018 / 34 HRs and 30 SBs in 2019).
Tucker’s strong showings in 2018 and 2019 earned him a couple short call-ups that resulted in very different results. 2018 was a big water sandwich as he hit a miserable .141 BA/ .439 OPS in 72 plate appearances. He looked completely overmatched. In the same amount of plate appearances in 2019, he looked promising as he hit a much improved .269 BA/ .857 OPS with 4 HRs and 5 SBs in only 22 games. But folks were unsure if he had benefitted from small sample syndrome the second time.
Tucker has been at times a bit of a controversial subject, through no fault of his own as he was a piece that the Astros would not consider trading no matter the treasure. Christian Yelich? He probably was even a consideration in the Justin Verlander trade before the Astros dug their heels in and traded other prospects at the last second before the trade deadline in 2017. We sure would rather have had Christian Yelich than a skinny kid with a long uppercut swing hitting .141 BA/ .439 OPS.
Well, 2020 is at full swing. Well as full a swing that a sport can get into when it is being interrupted by hurricanes, protests and COVID. But after suffering an Alex Bregman-esque beginning to the season, Kyle Tucker’s at bats have become Must-See events for those fans still watching.
On August 18th Tucker was hitting a puny .192 BA/ .234 OBP/ .563 OPS. On the plus side, he had somehow scored 14 runs in 19 games, but he only had 2 HRs and 4 BBs and he looked like the start of a bust.
But beginning with his walk-off home run on August 19th, he has carried this club for 10 straight games. In those 10 games, his numbers are insane – 10 runs scored, 5 triples, 4 HRs, 18 RBIs, 7 walks and slashing a robust .484 BA/ .579 OBP/ 1.805 OPS. He has basically been involved in half the runs scored during that decade of games.
He has become the Yordan Alvarez of 2020 as fans are checking out his at bats to see what he will do next. For some perspective, Alvarez in 87 games scored 58 runs, hit 27 HRs and knocked in 78 RBIs. If you project Tucker’s numbers for all 33 games this season (including the good and the bad) to 87 games – he would score 68 runs (more than Yordan), hit 15 HRs (much less than Yordan) and knock in 76 RBIs (basically the same as Yordan). Now Tucker will probably never show Alvarez type of pure power, but Alvarez is not likely to put up 6 triples in his career, much less the 6 Tucker has managed in this short season.
What we have seen the last couple of weeks with Kyle Tucker is a young player adjusting on the fly. He is taking pitches outside the strike zone (finally). He is going the other way with pitches. He has been able to catch up with higher pitches that his uppercut swing used to miss. Will he stay this hot? No, but if he can hit that happy medium he will be the answer to one of the outfield spots opening up full time in 2021.