HOUSTON -- It's reasonable to expect Astros outfield prospect Kyle Tucker to be in the team's Opening Day lineup in 2019 at 22 years old. And as well as Tucker has progressed through the Minor Leagues, he could make his big league debut at some point this year.Tucker, the Astros'
HOUSTON -- It's reasonable to expect Astros outfield prospect Kyle Tucker to be in the team's Opening Day lineup in 2019 at 22 years old. And as well as Tucker has progressed through the Minor Leagues, he could make his big league debut at some point this year.
Tucker, the Astros' top-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 5-ranked outfield prospect in all of baseball, excelled at Double-A Corpus Christi in the second half of last season as one of the youngest players in the Texas League, setting him up to spend much of this year at Triple-A.
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A tall, lanky player, Tucker is trying to add some weight. He turned 21 last week, so there is still some natural filling out that will happen to his frame.
"We were extremely pleased with the season he had in 2017, and not just the numbers he put up, which were really good for a 20-year-old," Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias said. "The blend of hitting for average and hitting for power and the speed on the bases he showed, all of his numbers were great.
"But he also went through some ups and downs and showed us that he continued to make adjustments, and that's just as important as the statistics that he put up, because that's a part of the sport. He knew he was going to face some challenges going forward, and when he eventually gets to the big leagues, having those experiences along the way certainly helps."
A left-handed-hitting outfielder, Tucker batted .274 with 70 runs, 33 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, 90 RBIs, 21 steals and an .874 OPS in 120 combined games between Corpus Christi and Class A Advanced Buies Creek this season. Despite being one of the youngest position players in both the Carolina League and 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.
"It was my second full year and so I tried to soak everything in," Tucker said last year. "It was a big learning experience for me. Last year, I felt like I saw a lot of room to improve and I felt like I did a lot of improving over the offseason last year, and it kind of showed a little bit in the season. I kind of took a few things frpm last year and kind of grew from that."
Tucker has such good bat-to-ball skills that he occasionally gets a little overaggressive outside the zone, and the Astros want him to be more content putting the bat on the ball and waiting for his pitch.
"It's really been the same since we first started evaluating and since we brought him into the organization," Elias said. "He's a very good natural hitter and he's got a lot of natural ability to put the bat on the ball, especially with a good bit of power. Because of that, sometimes he needs to be cognizant to remain in not only the strike zone, but in an area of the strike zone he can do the most damage in."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.