A Tale of Two Tuckers

It was a humid afternoon/evening at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday April 20, 2019 and rain clouds were on the horizon. Pirates #5 Prospect, Cole Tucker, had just been called up to the majors and would be getting his first big league start thanks in part to a mid-game collision between starting shortstop, Erik Gonzalez, and centerfielder, Starling Marte, during the Pirates 4-1 over the Giants the night before. Next man up, Kevin Newman was technically eligible to return from a 10-Day stint on the IL with a with a finger laceration, but it was Tucker who would get the nod. In the bottom of the 5th Inning of a 1-1 tie, Pablo Reyes on 2nd base, Cole Tucker stepped into the box against his now teammate, Derek Holland. With his family in attendance, as luck and determination on their part would have it, the Pirates young shortstop sent Holland’s 2-2 offering over the centerfield wall and into the PIRATES bushes; giving the Buccos a 3-1 lead. Shortly after this the skies opened up and didn’t let up, eventually resulting in a Pirates victory and a game winning homer for Tucker. This hit was almost five years in the making; at least as far as his time with the Pirates Organization is concerned. For Cole and his family, I am certain the journey was much longer.

Cole Tucker was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1st Round (24th Overall) of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft from Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, Arizona. In the weeks and months leading up to this day, Tucker’s draft stock had been rising up the boards from his original #64 spot on the MLB Pipeline top 200 draft prospects. This was due to a strong spring performance, including his participation in the National High School Invitational; making him a surprise selection by the Pirates.

As soon as he suited up in a GCL Pirates or a West Virginia Power uniform, possibly even before that, it was apparent to many Tucker’s glove (55 Grade) and arm (55 Grade) were going to play in Major League Baseball. As he climbed the minor league ranks this fact became abundantly clear and there was always hope that his bat (50 Hit/35 Power) would catch up as he continued to develop; not that he was a terrible hitter, just inconsistent. However, this never really concerned me too much because he has always been significantly younger than the players he was competing against and he always makes the necessary adjustments; as evidenced by his 5 game hitting streak prior to him being sent back down to AAA at the beginning of June (.500 AVG during that time to bring his AVG up from .155 to .196 in a little over a week) and his patience at the plate in August and September (K% dropped from 30.4% to 17.6%). It should also be noted he posted a .257 AVG and a .819 OPS once he was called back up.

Unfortunately for Cole this season’s Spring Training was cut short, along with everyone else’s, and he was optioned to the AAA Indianapolis Indians on March 20th. Of course as we all know he did not disappear from the spotlight as he was the representative for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Players Tournament of MLB The Show. He gave us a lot of laughs and excitement with his charismatic personality, but fell short of making the playoffs. While Cole was busy thanking the virtual Gregory Polanco for many of his clutch hits in the gaming world another Tucker, Carson, was entering the prospect news, pushing his way into the spotlight; with and thanks to his big brother.

Most people’s first glimpse of MLB Pipeline’s #52 Prospect, Shortstop Carson Tucker from Mountain Pointe High School, was when big bro Cole, full of pride, shared a video of of his little brother taking BP on Twitter in late April. For the prospect junkies in the room, we have been watching this young man’s development with pure anticipation and excitement for the past couple of years. The Texas University Baseball commit has been flashing the glove and footwork of a major league caliber shortstop for a while now and just like his older brother, Cole has been climbing the draft board due to a solid, yet shortened spring. The younger Tucker has always had a strong hit tool (55 Grade) as evidenced by his .390 AVG in high school (.453 in a full season last year) and 34 career extra base hits. However, it was his power (40 Grade) that has shown the most improvement recently; hitting 2 homers in only three games this spring, which is almost as many as he hit (3) in his previous three years combined. Has always shown the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field and gaps, but now with him pulling the ball with power and ease he now has the potential to be the total package.

So what does the future hold for the Tucker Brothers? Well at least Carson has something real to grasp onto as it looks like the MLB June Amateur Draft is going to take place on the 10th and 11th. He is certain to be taken in the first 5 rounds, which will only be the rounds this year. The only question that remains is, will it be a high enough slot, with enough money to keep him away from the Longhorns? If you want my honest opinion the answer should be yes. As for Cole the future is a little more hazy; at least for now. The MLB season is in extreme jeopardy and the MiLB is almost sure to be lost. Where does he fit into the Pirates current roster? Of course he has been made the heir apparent, the shortstop of the future, but the path is not so clear anymore. With the emergence of Kevin Newman last year, the signings of JT Riddle and Erik Gonzalez during the off-season and the likes of Oneil Cruz and Liover Pegeuro waiting in the wings, this assumption is has become less fact and more opinion. The real travesty as it currently exists is that the older Tucker is in no position to gain any leverage by putting up solid numbers in AAA to make his case. So for now we will all have to do what every other baseball fan and player, including Cole Tucker, is doing, which is to wait and see.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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