The Astros may be the defending World Series champions, and own the second-best record in Major League Baseball, but that doesn't mean they can't get better. They took a step toward doing so Saturday by promoting one of the game's top offensive prospects.
Houston called up outfielder and No. 1 prospect Kyle Tucker -- ranked No. 8 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list -- and plans to give him regular at-bats. George Springer will remain a fixture in the outfield for the Astros, who will mix Tucker into a rotation at the other two spots that also includes Marwin Gonzalez, Tony Kemp and Josh Reddick.
"[Tucker's] earned it," Houston manager A.J. Hinch told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. "He's played very well at Triple-A. He's been pretty hot recently. We've liked his at-bats. We've always liked the impact potential. We have some at-bats open for the next nine days before the break, and he can impact us. He made a big impression in spring. He did his job in Triple-A. The next test for him is going to be the big leagues."
MILB Video - Title: Watch: Tucker's two-run homer - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=2237914183
The No. 5 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, in which Houston also grabbed Alex Bregman with the second overall choice, Tucker comes from a Plant (Fla.) High School program that has produced eight big leaguers, including Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, Orioles pitcher Mychal Givens and Kyle's older brother Preston. Tucker has produced throughout his professional career, and batted .306/.371/.520 with 14 homers and 14 steals in 80 games at Triple-A Fresno this year at age 21. He leads the Pacific Coast League in runs (62) and ranks second in hits (100), total bases (170) and RBIs (62).
While Tucker has an unorthodox left-handed swing, it works for him because he has outstanding hand-eye coordination and plenty of bat speed. He has adopted more of a power approach in the last two years, adding some loft to his stroke. Comparing Tucker's first two years as a pro to his last two, his slugging percentage has increased from .408 to .525 and his isolated power has risen from .137 to .238.
Tucker's strikeout rate also has jumped, from 15 percent in 2015-16 to 20 percent in 2017-18, but he still makes more contact than most players with his power potential. He recognizes pitches well and hits home runs without swinging for the fences.
MILB Video - Title: Watch: Tucker notches three hits again - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=2181492183
Though Tucker stands out most for his ability at the plate, he's more than just a hitter and slugger, and could have average or better tools across the board. He spent most of his first two full pro seasons in center field, but is better suited for a corner spot with his speed and so-so routes. He has split most of his time in Triple-A between left and right field, and his solid arm strength plays well at either position.
Tucker may not be a burner on the basepaths, but he plays quicker than his average speed thanks to his instincts. He has 85 steals in 380 career games in the Minor Leagues and has succeeded at a 75 percent rate.
Assuming Tucker gets regular playing time, he is equipped to bat .275 and reach double figures in homers and steals during the second half of the big league season. He'll make MLB's third-highest scoring offense more dangerous in the present, and he should blossom into a 30-homer threat in his prime.