BRADENTON, Fla. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Pirates camp, it was Pittsburgh's No. 5 prospect, Cole Tucker. Tucker was the Pirates' first-round pick, taken No. 24 overall in
BRADENTON, Fla. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Pirates camp, it was Pittsburgh's No. 5 prospect, Cole Tucker.
Tucker was the Pirates' first-round pick, taken No. 24 overall in the 2014 Draft. A torn labrum cut his first full season short in 2015 and in 2017, he broke his thumb in the Florida State League, then fractured his hand at the end of the year up in Double-A. Still, he managed to reach Double-A at age 21 and led the organization with 47 stolen bases.
MLB Pipeline: Things ended with an injury for you at the end of 2017. How excited were you to get here and get going again?
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Tucker: I'm ready to roll. Last year, the end kind of stunk there, missing the Fall League and the last couple of days of the playoffs. I'm ready to go this year and I'm excited for what's coming. We have an exciting wave of guys I'll be playing with, so I'm excited to get back on the field again.
MLB Pipeline: You've had some completely unrelated injuries. When this one happened, you must've said, "Really? Again?"
Tucker: It's just been a lot of bad luck, I feel, things that are out of my control. I play hard, that's who I am, that's my brand of baseball. I just need to stop running into stuff, essentially. That's all I can say about it. I'm going to continue to play the way I play. I just need to avoid big objects.
MLB Pipeline: And the shoulder continues to be all good?
Tucker: Except when people like you bring it up, I honestly don't even think about it, which is good.
MLB Pipeline: Sorry about that.
Tucker: You're fine. Do your thing. It's your job.
MLB Pipeline: Let's talk about that team in Altoona that has the chance to be fairly ridiculous. What can you say about that mass of talent that should be there?
Tucker: We have some sexy names, which is fun. We're moving up together and we just got some new acquisitions through trades. Jason Martin looks really good. Bryan Reynolds looks really good. We have some guys who are exciting. Getting to see Mitch Keller pitch every five days is fun.
MLB Pipeline: Watching Keller do his thing from your vantage point must be a treat.
Tucker: He's awesome. He's one of my best friends, so it's fun to play with him. He's got it all. He throws strikes, he's got fuzz, he has a really good breaking ball, he's working on the changeup. He's just fun to play behind.
MLB Pipeline: The Pirates have a strong collection of middle infielders now at the upper levels, with you, Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer, not to mention Stephen Alemais. Is there friendly competition among all of you? You can't all play shortstop. How have you been navigating it all?
Tucker: It's out of our control. We're all really good friends. We do navigate through it. We want to play together in Pittsburgh in some way, shape or form. We're pulling for each other, and it's a friendly competition. We all want to play short in Pittsburgh. We have a lot of talent around here and it's going to be fun watching it play out.
MLB Pipeline: When you visited the University of Arizona, Newman was your guy there?
Tucker: Newman was my host. He and [Phillies prospect] Scott Kingery, who was my high school teammate. A lot of friends, a lot of relationships. It's cool to still be playing with and against each other at 21 and 24. Not a lot of high school friends can say they do that.
MLB Pipeline: And you're all going to be working out together in Arizona this offseason?
Tucker: Yeah. Scott and I are recruiting Kramer and Newman out to A-Z. They're moving out to Scottsdale, so we'll all be hanging out a lot.
MLB Pipeline: You see the numbers in terms of players, and positional flexibility is a big deal now, yet you're the one guy who hasn't played any place but short.
Tucker: I keep looking over my shoulder to see if anyone is going to make me move. I don't want to move, I've always played shortstop my whole life. If I have to, I absolutely will, obviously. So far, so good, still just playing short and doing whatever they need me to do.
MLB Pipeline: Does that give you more confidence, especially as you reach the upper levels, that they haven't asked you to move around? They clearly have faith in your ability to play shortstop.
Tucker: I hope you're right. That's definitely how it seems. I feel like they believe in me. They keep saying that I need to play shortstop and to just continue to do that. Hopefully, that's what it's going to be and until they tell me differently, that's what I'll focus on.
MLB Pipeline: You got a taste of Double-A Altoona before the injury. It's the upper levels, it's close to Pittsburgh. Did you start tasting the big leagues?
Tucker: Not getting ahead of yourself, but you have friends who are now playing in the big leagues. You're playing against Austin Hays from the Orioles one day and he's in the big leagues the next. Raudy Read goes up. Tanner Scott goes up. You're seeing guys getting really close, but it's important to be where your feet are and continue to play well every day so I can be one of those guys soon.
MLB Pipeline: What were your takeaways from your time in big league camp?
Tucker: It was sweet. I got to hang out with Sean Rodriguez and Jordy Mercer every day and learn from them and take everything I could from their game. Just being there for the first time and not competing for a spot I think will be important for my development going forward. So when I do compete for a job, I know what it looks like, I know the staff and how things work up there.
MLB Pipeline: Did you thank Jordy Mercer for keeping your spot warm for you?
Tucker: Nah, but we joke about it all of the time. Jordy's been great. I would love to play with him at some point. He has a wealth of knowledge about what it means to be an everyday big league shortstop. I want to be just like him.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.