Something Fun with Preston Tucker

Something Fun with Preston Tucker

If you have a life or friends or family of any kind, you may have missed it yesterday but Atlanta traded for OF Preston Tucker from the Houston Astros. The deal was for a PTBNL or cash considerations so I understand if the news didn’t exactly knock you off your feet but it did indeed happen.

I have no idea how good a player Tucker is now or will be with Atlanta. He hit well in AAA last year, which is better than the alternative, but it was in hitter friendly Fresno so who knows what those numbers actually mean. In doing research on him yesterday, I don’t have many friends, I found the normal warts you find in the profile of a 27-year-old minor leaguer, but I did run across something kind of fun.

Like I said, he wasn’t in the majors at all in 2017, so we don’t have any Statcast data on him from last year but he did play in 2016. And in 2016, on his line drives and fly balls, Tucker hit the ball an average of 96.3 mph. That is a big, big number. For context, last year Freddie Freeman, one of the best hitters in baseball, hit his LD/FB at 93.3 mph. Other guys Tucker bested in that department include Bryce Harper, Carlos CorreaCorey Seager, Miguel Cabrera, and Mike Trout, just to name a few. In fact, last year only 13 players in all of baseball hit the ball in the air with more authority than Tucker did in 2016 (min.100).

The sample size for him isn’t huge but that’s why I like exit velocity numbers so much. One, they correlate well to performance and two, they stabilize really quickly. Hitting the ball hard is the like throwing the ball hard. It doesn’t take many times doing it to show you have the skill to keep doing it. You can’t really fake it. And Tucker can hit the ball hard. So that’s encouraging.

The other encouraging sign is last year in AAA, it seems he made a conscious effort to hit the ball in the air more while making more consistent contact. Hitting the ball hard, hitting it in the air, and consistently making contact is the holy trinity of production in MLB these days so Tucker is at least interesting. He’s the kind of player I begged the last regime to take fliers on during this rebuild instead of letting a bunch of 30+-year-olds lose 90 games a year.

Like I said above, he still has his warts. He still can’t hit lefties and grades out poorly in the outfield. He’s so bad out there I actually wonder if Atlanta got him to be the backup 1B/LH pinch hitter Matt Adams was going to be, just at a fraction of the cost. That would make some sense. If you go back and read some of his prospect blurbs, 1B as a future possibility was usually mentioned. We’ll see. And the struggles with lefties is somewhat mitigated by how few left-handed starters there are in the NL right now. Keeping most of his at-bats against right-handers shouldn’t be difficult.

Whatever he is, or whatever he ends up being, I like the gamble. Braves are due for a random, fringe prospect to come up and turn into a real player. Tucker at least has some underlying skills to make it possible.

2 Comments

That’s an interesting tidbit about his exit velocity. If he ends up being Matt Adams 2.0, and ends up filling his role off the bench… this could be a solid move. It wouldn’t hurt to have a decent PH option without having to burn the back up catcher.

Is Preston Tucker an every day player? I sincerely doubt it. The good news is we have two non-everyday player options in our organization right now that could be a serviceable platoon with Tucker: Lane Adams and Dustin Peterson.

Lane can be a decent bench option on most teams. Nice speed element, can be versatile defensively in the OF, but he isn’t a plus defender. He has sneaky pop as well, but reverse splits so I don’t know that he would be an ideal option for a platoon.

That leads me to Dustin Peterson. He was recently left available in the Rule 5 draft and went undrafted, allowing the Braves to retain his rights. Due to injury he had a less than forgettable year, and it’s easy to forget that prior to the injury we were seriously considering him as our 4th OF. After the injury we went with Emilio Bonifacio and Jace Peterson as the primary backups. He too has some pop in his bat, and had much more favorable splits after his return last year and even splits in 2016.

Keeping in mind that neither Nick or Ender came out of games last year except due to injury, and Acuna is just a phone call away in case of injury to either one of those players, and a platoon situation in the OF might be the best way to address the corner OF spot until the Braves implement the Acuna Initiative. Most likely it will be a platoon of Adams and Tucker since Peterson is not on the 40 man roster and Adams is out of options.

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