Posted on July 7, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Houston Astros don’t exactly need a lot of help right now. But they may be about to get some anyway. On Saturday, the Astros called up outfielder Kyle Tucker, immediately putting him in the starting lineup during their win over the White Sox. Tucker is Houston’s top prospect and the no. 8 overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. The Astros optioned light-hitting outfielder Jake Marisnick to the minors to make room for Tucker on the active roster.
The 21-year old Tucker was the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft. Even when the team made trades to get better for their World Series run last season, they refused to part with Tucker. That faith has paid off thus far. In 80 games this season at triple-A, Tucker is hitting .306 with 14 home runs and 24 doubles, posting an OPS of .891. Based on those numbers, the Astros believe he’s ready for his first taste of the majors.
“First things first, he was playing really well in Triple-A and starting to push his way into the conversation over the last couple of weeks,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Saturday. “We’re in an area of our schedule here where we’re going to face a lot of right-handed pitching. That was important.”
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The Astros have struggled to find consistency in their third outfield spot alongside Josh Reddick and George Springer. Marwin Gonzalez has seen a lot of time in left field. But he’s more of a utility man who’s spending most of his time in the infield with Carlos Correa on the DL. Marisnick and Derek Fisher have both struggled offensively. Tony Kemp has hit a little but doesn’t provide much power. Thus, the Astros want to see if Tucker can be that solution.
“His bat is his calling card,” says Hinch. “He can do a lot of different things on the field, but he can really hit. The only thing he hasn’t answered is whether he can consistently hit at the Major League level, and that’s what this is for. This is the next challenge for him.”
It sounds like the Astros are bringing up Tucker to audition to become their everyday left fielder. He’s likely the left fielder of the future in Houston. But the Astros are looking to repeat as World Series champions, so they are looking for players who can help them to win right now. For the time being, Tucker figures to play every day so the Astros can judge whether he’s ready to be part of a championship team.
“We’ve got to see if he can be a part of what we’re doing for the season. I think he’s earned the right to get the at-bats,” explains Hinch. “He’s going to get the opportunities to get some at-bats and join a team he doesn’t have to be ‘the guy’ on. He doesn’t have to carry us.”
Tucker’s debut on Saturday didn’t go as he would have liked. He struck out in his first three major league at-bats before hitting a single in his last at-bat. However, the Astros have high hopes for Tucker. They also have an opening to fill in left field. Over the next few weeks, Tucker will get his chance that he deserves to be Houston’s left fielder for the rest of 2018 and beyond.