“Bad Body” Preston Tucker

Preston Tucker was a 7th round pick for the Astro’s in 2012 out of fabled Plant High School in Tampa Florida which produced a number of Major Leaguers including Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. Normally a High School prospect with plus power from the left side, a reportedly high Baseball IQ,  and good plate discipline would be drafted fairly high but not in this case.

It’s not that Tucker wasn’t noticed by scouts who liked his powerful yet unorthodox swing and developed arms, but what was mentioned more often than not was that he had a “bad body”—scout parlance that encompasses a number of physical shortcomings and in this case it was his lack of height at just under 6 feet tall. Considered the 14th best prospect in the talent rich Houston Farm system in 2014, Tucker isn’t even considered the best prospect in his family, as his brother Kyle Tucker who is 6’-4” was recently drafted by the Astro’s as their # 2 pick.

Tucker joined an Astro’s organization rich in MLB talent in the OF and in their Minor League system. George Springer flashed his enormous potential in 2014. Jake Marisnick, with developing power/speed credentials, was also with the big club and heralded prospect Domingo Santana was waiting in the wings. Colby Rasmus is a dependable power bat with a career .194 ISO who was signed by the Astros in 2015. Add in Evan Gattis, who was traded to the club prior to the 2015 season, and has played the OF as well although only 8 games this season.

Tucker quietly went about his business and moved swiftly through the Minors reaching Triple A in 2014. His Minor league numbers below were very solid as he held his power through each level but most importantly he demonstrated good plate discipline.

Games AB’s Runs D & T HR RBI K’s BB K Rate BB Rate Ave OBP OPS
340 1336 227 79 67 267 240 145 18% 11.7% .296 .365 .872

To be fair, his K% at the Triple A Level was 24.5% and his walk rate 10% but that was to be expected as Tucker had to make the adjustments to better pitching. Lacking in foot speed, he is not a defensive wizard by any means. But we live in the world of fantasy play and as such his value to us is measured by different standards. Tucker has a barely passable arm and is certainly “just adequate” as a defensive player in the OF, but that’s all that is generally needed for us to project his impact in our cozy little statistical world. The fact that he batted almost equally well against both lefty and righty pitching in the Minors was encouraging and a .190 ISO against lefthanders was particularly so.

Tucker’s break occurred when he was brought up in May to replace an injured George Springer who at that time was out because of a concussion. The events that have transpired since have really opened the door for Tucker. Springer suffered a serious injury in June and with a fractured wrist he was not expected to be back in the lineup until late August. Heralded OF prospect Domingo Santana was one of the key pieces in the trade that brought Carlos Gomez to the Astro’s so the most immediate organizational threat to his playing time has moved on. Neither Colby Rasmus nor Jake Marisnick are setting the world on fire this season.

For now, Preston Tucker seems to have played himself into a starting role. He is batting .264 with 10 HR’s and 28 RBI’s in 249 PA’s so he has acquitted himself quite well in his first 66 games in the majors.  Unlike some of the other power threats in the loaded Houston lineup, Tucker has a respectable 19.7% K rate and a 6.8% walk rate. As we discussed earlier, his power seemed real as he moved up to the higher levels in the Minors so there is a chance that his current .203 ISO will hold.  Tucker makes hard contact 32% of the time and his overall contact rate is a respectable 75.5%.

There is no question that when Springer returns the RF spot is his so Tucker’s future playing time will depend upon how well he can hold off Colby Rasmus and Jake Marisnick. Here’s how they stack up:

Player PA HR RBI ISO SB K Rate B Rate OBP OPS BA wRC+ OPS Splits-R OPS Splits-L
Rasmus (L) 305 13 38 .215 1 32.5% 8.5% .305 .758 .238 109 109 109
Marisnick (R) 262 5 27 .132 14 28.6% 4.2% .267 .631 .231 75 99 35
Tucker (L) 249 10 28 .203 0 19.7% 6.8% .317 .782 .264 119 157 20

Tucker compares very favorably with both Marisnick and Rasmus across the board. As a team the Astro’s strike out almost 24% of the time with only the Cubs behind them for the worst strikeout record in the Majors. On the plus side, Tucker’s 19.7% K rate is refreshing in comparison. As long as he can keep the plate discipline up and not fall into bad habits he has a chance to keep his job. But the most troublesome area for his future prospects is the OPS splits against left handed pitchers. This was not an issue for Tucker in the Minors but it certainly is now as he faces Major League pitchers. With Rasmus not subject to the same deficiency against left handed pitching, this could very well turn into a platoon situation with Tucker on the favorable side of it but still losing AB’s.

The other area of concern for Tucker is his fielding. While not normally an important issue for fantasy owners, it does play a critical role when a ballplayer may lose playing time because of it. Tucker is just is not in the same class as Marisnick or Rasmus in the OF.

Player UZR
Marisnick 13.2
Rasmus 10.7
Tucker -2.6

UZR is an advanced Fielding Measurement- (Ultimate) Zone Rating in runs above average (Arm+DPR+RngR+ErrR)

Right now you should be able to comfortably ride Tucker until at least the middle to late part of August which is when Springer could be ready to return. After that it will be a much muddier situation. Mixed league owners will need to pay strict attention to any change in his playing time with the potential of an OF platoon situation with Colby Rasmus a distinct possibility unless other circumstances intervene.

Since Tucker came up through the system as a 1B/OF–he did play 22 games at 1B as late as 2014–so prominent among those intervening circumstances could be the decision to allow him to compete for time at 1B. With SS Jed Lowrie coming off the DL, and super rookie Correa firmly entrenched at SS, Lowrie is expected to move to 3B pushing Luis Valbuena to first base and possibly displacing a struggling Chris Carter. The pressure will be on Tucker to continue to play well. Not anything new for a player who has had to overcome the “bad body” label. And so it goes.

 





Fell in love with baseball at a very young age. My dad claimed that Joe DiMaggio picked me up as a toddler when we were sitting behind the Yankee Dugout. Do remember walking across the lush green grass of the old Yankee Stadium outfield when there were three baseball teams in New York. Fantasy Baseball Analyst for Fantistics and Insider Baseball. Thrilled to be part of the FanGraphs Team. Fantasy baseball team owner since 1990.

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Jeff
8 years ago

For whatever it’s worth, it looks like Chris Carter has already been displaced–they’re starting Marwin Gonzalez over him some nights. A buy low for me that didn’t pay off.

Good stuff about Tucker here–and about another prejudice we should bear in mind when evaluating players.

james
8 years ago
Reply to  Jeff

carter- the guy hitting about 180 on the season. It is proof that there still is a mendoza line for power. he is basically Mark Reynolds (only corner OF and 1b only, no sort of poor hot corner).

If carter can keep the power off the bench, he is a great ph when you need a sac fy or home run