Houston Astros: The Rich Will Only Get Richer
The Houston Astros are coming off their first World Series in franchise history, an instant-classic with two of the greatest games baseball has seen. They return everyone of importance in the lineup and even got better in the rotation with the addition of Pirates ace Gerrit Cole and the first of two full years of Justin Verlander. They locked down the face of the franchise in Jose Altuve for the next 7 years and look to continue to do the same with their other young cornerstones as well.
They have the best middle infield in baseball, one that could be the best of all time when it’s all said and done, they moved two solid starters into the bullpen full time because the rotation is so stacked, and the everyday lineup has 8 positions locked down for the foreseeable future.
The moral of the story is, the Astros head into their reigning champion season in 2018 as baseball royalty. They are as rich as they come in today’s modern game of sabermetrics, bullpenning (that one is for you, Brian Kenny), and exit velos.
Yet, there is a very real possibility they will only get richer.
Last night, in an exhibition match against the Milwaukee Brewers, Tucker continued to light up the box score. In his first at bat in Minute Maid Park, Kyle Tucker blasted a majestic Grand Slam into the right field stands. It is this hitting that has been put on display from Tucker during his brief but powerful showing this Spring Training season.
The 20 year old Kyle Tucker entered his first spring training with the Astros’ major league club looking to show why he was considered the best pure hitter in the 2015 MLB Draft Class. He by no means disappointed. Tucker hit an absurd .439/.466/.800/1.255 in his 45 plate appearances in spring training, including a team best 5 HR, 21 RBI, 18 H, and just 7 Ks. Tucker proved he belonged at baseball’s highest stage, but still could use some seasoning in the minors leagues, as he has only had 72 games under his belt above High-A ball.
The Astros are in no hurry to start his service clock and rush his impressive development thus far. While LF is not locked up yet by one player in Houston yet, Marwin Gonzalez and Derek Fisher will both hold the fort down and most likely do it well. However, the job seems like Tucker’s to lose, once he’s called up of course.
That’s not to be interpreted wrong either, as both Fisher and Gonzalez could both step up this season (or in Gonzalez’s case, continue last year’s success) to break the temptation of calling up Tucker in 2018. Most likely, Tucker will not be getting called up simply to occupy a bench role. When Tucker’s time comes, he’ll look to lock down LF immediately. If Fisher does well this season, that creates a good problem to have.
In the long run, however, Tucker’s ceiling may push him to be the “LF of the Future” for the Astros. MLB teams across the league recognize the kind of player Tucker can become. It is a big reason why he’s been the main ask in trade discussions with essentially every team and why GM Jeff Luhnow has refused to put him on the trade block, let alone pull the trigger. Sometime in the very near future we will begin to understand why the hard no was placed on him.
What Tucker brings to the table is a 5-Tool pedigree. With 71 SBs in 300 MiLB games, he is deceptively fast and very solid across all three OF positions. His power has developed and will continue to grow as he gains more experience in professional baseball, adding to his pure swing a dangerous aspect to his overall game. The sky is the limit for the former 5th overall pick.
For now, however, the Astros will just have to settle for an offense that last season ranked statistically up top with the 1927 Yankee’s Murderer’s Row with four hitters who batted over .300 (and one who batted .299) and combined for the second most HRs in baseball while drastically reducing their total strikeout numbers as well. I guess we’ll get by.
Kyle Tucker’s inevitable call-up could be quicker rather than later, possibly as early as summer for a team looking to defend their title as baseball’s royalty and become the first team since the ‘99-‘00 Yankees to repeat as World Champions. Make no mistake though, when that awaited call-up finally comes for Tucker, he will add another bat to a team with an embarrassment of riches whose only interested is in getting richer.
**Header Photo Credit: Tammy Tucker**
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