Tucker impressing Astros, but won't make club

Club's top hitting prospect has 3 HRs this spring, still has work to do in Minors

March 2nd, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- One of the most notable stories in the first couple of weeks of Astros camp has been 21-year-old , the sweet-swinging, left-handed-hitting outfielder who clubbed his third home run in Grapefruit League play on Thursday.

While fans' expectations have been raised to the point they're wondering if Tucker will make the club out of camp, his teammates have even been showing Tucker some love by taking down his nameplate and writing "Ted" above his locker -- an homage to Hall of Famer Ted Williams.

Let's pump the brakes.

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Astros manager A.J. Hinch, when asked Friday afternoon about Tucker's chances to make the team, gushed with praise about baseball's No. 16 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, but said Tucker won't be breaking camp with the big league club.

"He's a good-looking young player who is doing a great job of making a great first impression," Hinch said. "He's got some things to learn, he's got some things to work on. He's a great talent, and I think that's where it starts and ends. I think his contribution to the Major League level will come at some point if he continues to progress, but it's not going to come at the end of the month no matter what he does. We feel it's just not in the best interest for him.

"Now, he can make it more interesting. That timeline always moves depending on your readiness, but that's not defined by the first two weeks of spring. I'm proud of him, I'm happy he's doing what he's doing. The Kyle Tucker show will join the big leagues at some point if he continues to do what he's doing, but he's not currently in competition to make the team."

Tucker said Thursday he has been working on pitch selection this spring, which is the next step in his development. Hinch said pitch recognition, attacking early in counts and defending himself with two strikes are some things Tucker needs to improve upon.

"Like with a lot of hitters -- we've seen this happen with [Carlos] Correa and [Alex] Bregman and George [Springer] -- when they get closer to the big leagues, there's a lot of fine-tuning that goes on and a lot of that circles around tougher game plans that start to come about when the regular season starts," Hinch said. "When you start facing competition in-season, those are things he'll finish off in the big leagues at some point. I'm certainly happy with what he's doing."

Tucker batted .274 with 70 runs, 33 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, 90 RBIs, 21 steals and an .874 OPS in 120 combined games last year between Double-A Corpus Christi and Class A Advanced Buies Creek. Despite being one of the youngest position players (20 at the time) in both the Carolina League and the Texas League, Tucker was one of just 10 players in all of the Minor Leagues to record at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2017.

He's likely going to start 2018 back at Corpus Christi, which means he could be an option for Houston at some point this season. The Astros, of course, could stand to benefit financially down the road by pushing back Tucker's service time clock well into the season, but his development is front and center in spring decisions.

"Whether he starts at Double-A or Triple-A will be determined by the organization, but he's got a chance to do a lot of things in the game," Hinch said. "If the timeline is sooner rather than later, then we'll address it. It's not right now."