HOUSTON -- Kyle Tucker, the next in line from among the Astros' stream of can't-miss prospects, shook off three strikeouts to begin his Major League career by coming through with a single and a bases-loaded walk in the Astros' 12-6 win over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon."It was awesome,"
HOUSTON -- Kyle Tucker, the next in line from among the Astros' stream of can't-miss prospects, shook off three strikeouts to begin his Major League career by coming through with a single and a bases-loaded walk in the Astros' 12-6 win over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon.
"It was awesome," Tucker said. "I had a lot of fun tonight and we came up with the win, so that makes it even better. Just being in the big leagues is awesome, especially this team."
The Astros called up Tucker, the No. 8 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, late Friday with the intent of making him their starting left fielder. He received a huge ovation each time he stepped to the plate in his debut at Minute Maid Park, but White Sox starter James Shields struck him out three times in a row.
Tucker lined a single to right in the seventh off reliever Bruce Rondon for his first hit and drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth for his first Major League RBI.
"It was kind of a relief to put a ball forward after the first three strikeouts," Tucker said with a smile. "You're going to strike out at times. You're going to have some bad ABs, and bad games, and you have to grind through it and move on to the next AB."
Tucker was hitting .306/.371/.520 with 14 homers and 66 RBIs in 80 games at Triple-A Fresno. Astros manager AJ Hinch said Tucker will play the corner outfield spots, but mostly left field -- a position at which the Astros have started five different players.
"There's only one first day and we've seen a lot of really good ones come up the last couple of years, at least while I've been here," Hinch said. "It's special. It takes you back to your first days. Certainly, it's an exciting day for Kyle and his family. Our team got better by adding him to the mix. We'll give him the next test in the big leagues and see where it takes him."
To make room for Tucker, the Astros optioned outfielder Jake Marisnick to Triple-A Fresno for the second time this year.
Tucker, 21, has a smooth left-handed swing and continues to develop power. He figures to quickly become a part of the Astros' young core of position-player stars, including Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. Tucker was drafted fifth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft out of Tampa, Fla., three picks after Bregman went second overall out of LSU. They were both drafted by the Astros on the day Correa made his Major League debut.
"First things first, he was playing really well in Triple-A and starting to push his way into the conversation over the last couple of weeks," Hinch said. "We're in an area of our schedule here where we're going to face a lot of right-handed pitching. That was important. …
"We've got to see if he can be a part of what we're doing for the season. I think he's earned the right to get the at-bats. He came up and made an incredibly strong impression in the spring and has continued that in Triple-A. He's going to get the opportunities to get some at-bats and join a team [where] he doesn't have to be the guy on. He doesn't have to carry us."
Tucker didn't play in Fresno's game Friday night against Las Vegas and was summoned to the clubhouse by a team trainer to meet with field coordinator Josh Bonifay, who delivered the news to Tucker. There were phone calls to his parents and brother -- former Astros outfielder Preston Tucker -- before catching a red-eye flight.
"It was special," Tucker said. "It's awesome just to be here and to get that news is great. I was super excited to get ready and get on the plane and come here."
Tucker didn't exhibit much excitement while meeting with the media Saturday, but that's not a surprise. He has a "calm heartbeat," Hinch said, though there's certainly some emotions underneath the surface.
"I didn't put too much pressure on [myself]," he said. "I went out and played my game in Triple-A and played as hard as I could and tried to win as many games as we could there and we're doing really well. There's guys that have gone up and down a lot. They've got a lot of talent down there. I'm happy to be here now."
In 2017, splitting time between Class A and Double-A in 2017, Tucker was named the Astros' Minor League Player of the Year after slashing .274/.346/.528 with 25 homers, 90 RBIs, 33 doubles, five triples, 70 runs scored and 21 stolen bases in 120 games. He was one of just 10 Minor Leaguers with a 20-20 season (homers and steals) and at age 20, was the youngest Minor Leaguer since Javier Baez in 2013 to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and knock in 90 RBIs.
"His bat is his calling card," Hinch said. "He can do a lot of different things on the field but he can really hit. The only thing he hasn't answered is whether he can consistently hit at the Major League level, and that's what this is for. This is the next challenge for him."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.