In 1948, Preston Tucker introduced the Tucker Sedan, a revolutionary automobile that innovated several safety features still in use today. The Tucker 48 posed a threat to the major automobile manufacturers of the time, and the company fell into bankruptcy amidst smear campaigns and a lengthy SEC trial, in which Tucker was acquitted on all counts. His story inspired the 1988 Francis Ford Coppola film Tucker: The Man and His Dream, which is an okay movie. Jeff Bridges is really good as Tucker, but it’s a pretty cheesy flick.
In 2014, Preston Tucker (no relation, at least that I know of) is an outfielder in the Astros’ system. Largely overlooked, thanks to Houston’s crazy-deep farm system, Tucker didn’t make a whole lot of top prospects lists this year, but he still got enough attention to slide in at No. 21 on SB Nation’s organizational consensus top prospect list.
I recently wrote about Kennys Vargas, pointing out that his ceiling is far higher in fantasy than it is in real life. Tucker is another of those guys. One of the major reasons you don’t see his name on many prospect lists is that he’s a very poor defender. He’s been an unmitigated disaster at first base and doesn’t have the arm for right field, which leaves him as a below-average defensive left fielder, which goes a long way towards limiting a prospect’s real-life ceiling.
But here in fantasy baseball land, we don’t care about defense do we? No, no we don’t! As it turns out, the relatively unheralded Tucker is an intriguing fantasy sleeper thanks to his advanced approach and plus power.
Tucker was a complete stud in college, as the lefty put together a .329/.402/.577 career slash at the University of Florida. Still, due to his defensive limitations, and questions about his ultimate power ceiling due to the fact that he’s just six feet tall — he’s not exactly short, but most power hitters are a bit taller than that — he wasn’t exactly a scouts’ darling. He was drafted by Colorado in the 16th round after his junior year, but chose to return to school for his senior year, eventually landing with the Astros in the 7th round of the 2012 draft.
The reason we’re taking the time to get to know Preston Tucker today is because he’s well on his way to his second consecutive 25-homer season. Last year, he split time between High-A and Double-A, finishing with an impressive .297/.368/.505 slash, with 25 homers and 32 doubles. This year, between Double-A and Triple-A, he’s sitting at .275/.344/.484 with another 22 homers and 28 doubles.
If you like guys who have power to all fields — and who doesn’t — you’ll love Tucker. Check out this blast from a few weeks ago as he pulls a towering shot out to right:
Here’s a bomb from last Friday that shows off his opposite-field power:
Tucker got off to a bit of a slow start upon his promotion to Triple-A, as he hit for no power and way too many ground balls in June, putting together a .270/.352/.317 line in his first 16 games. Since then, he’s hit .274/.331/.460 and has been red-hot lately, with two homers and three doubles in his last four games.
One thing that really impresses with the left-handed Tucker is his splits. Did you notice that both of the homers in the videos above were against southpaws? That’s not exactly an abnormality for Tucker. Check out his career minor-league splits:
- vs L – .322/.376/.512 (.888 OPS), .190 ISO
- vs R – .282/.357/.492 (.849 OPS), .210 ISO
Tucker still has some fine-tuning to do in Triple-A before he’s ready for the majors. While I mentioned his advanced approach earlier — and that’s part of what plays into his success against same-handed pitching — his 23.2% strikeout rate in Triple-A is pretty high, though not outrageously so for a power hitter. Still, in time he should be able to cut down on the whiffs; his career K-rate in 291 professional games is just 15.6%, paired with a healthy 9.3% walk rate.
It’s not out of the question that we’ll see Tucker in Houston this season; he’s not on the 40-man, but they only have 39 players on that roster at the moment. However, staying in the minors a bit longer might not be a bad thing in the long run. His power production thus far in Triple-A has been decent, but not great, and it wouldn’t hurt if he cut down on the strikeouts, as I mentioned earlier. Looking at his track record, I see no reason not to expect Tucker to make the necessary adjustments, especially if he’s given another couple months in Triple-A.
Looking forward, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Tucker break camp with the Astros in 2015. And if he is called up this year, fantasy owners might just get a late-season power boost from the largely unheralded Tucker. At the very least, the 24-year-old is well worth keeping an eye on.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.