2012 MLB Draft Profile: Preston Tucker, OF, Univ of Florida

Here is a tale of a baseball player. This player was largely ignored coming out of high school, and largely ignored coming out of college, despite posting eyebrow-raising statistics. He had at least one teammate who was seen as next "big thing" for his professional ball club, and so his own achievements stayed solidly under the radar. Scouts gave his teammate(s) the thumbs up, bit ignored the fact that he hit well over .300 for several years in a row. Scouts lauded the power of his teammate(s), but disregarded that he himself had higher home run and doubles totals. They doubted his defense. They doubted his size and durability. The predicted him to "regress".

The player described is not Astros' second baseman Jose Altuve who was ignored by scouts and statisticians alike until the volume of his excellent production shouted louder than all of the "experts'" protests. Rather, the first paragraph refers to University of Florida outfielder Preston Tucker (but not this guy).

Preston Tucker is a 6'0", 220 lb left-handed outfielder for the University of Florida. He holds the record for the most career hits in the history of the University, and he is the only person to ever win a Triple Crown (Batting Average, Home Runs, RBI) in Hillsborough County, where he went to High School at Plant HS.

Tucker was un-drafted coming out of high school despite setting school records and qualifying for All-State twice. As a High School senior, he drove 100 miles for a private tryout with Florida State and was unable to impress the coaches there. He ended up at the University of Floriday, where he bounce around positionally, but started 250 games, setting school records in both games started and number of hits.

What the Scouts Say

Generally, the scouts don't seem wowed. They guardedly praise Tucker's bat, but think he does not have the power to be a 30+ Home Run hitter in the majors. Tucker's speed is described as "average" and his arm as "below average". Most think his floor is that of a good bench outfielder/1B in the majors, with a ceiling as an average starter on a second-division team. The source of concern seems to be his body, since he's shorter than prototypical power hitters and heavy for his weight (Note from author: Heavy doesn't mean fat. He's just a big dude for his height. Kind of like how Jose Altuve is short, but built like a tank.)

The scouts are concerned that Tucker will never find a defensive home, and one scout even went so far as to compare him to Jack Cust prior to the 2011 baseball draft in which Tucker was selected in the 16th round by the Colorado Rockies:

"To me, Tucker is Jack Cust. Get him in the right place at the right time and he's an everyday guy." -- John Klima, Baseabll Prospect Report (Apr 2011)

What the Stats Say

The stats say nothing but good things. In his college career, Tucker holds a .329/.402/.577 slash line (give or take...HBP is not taken into account in the OBP calculation because the stat wasn't readily available) and a HR/AB rate of 5.5%, which is very good--keeping in mind that the metal bats are used in college that generate more oomph than the wooden bats used in professional ball. His 11% walk rate is good for college, and he does not strike out much.

Based solely by comparing Tucker's college stats to Cust's stats in the low minor leagues (he did not attend college), one can see that by the numbers, there is no comparison. Cust is known as a TTT (Three True Outcomes) hitter (Home Runs, Strikeouts, and Walks). Tucker doesn't have an incredibly high walk rate, but he only strikes out in 10% of his plate appearances. Tucker also does not have the type of power that Cust displayed in his early career. Cust, at ages 18-20 in the low minors, held a 25% strikeout rate, a 24% walk rate, and in high-A had a HR/AB ratio of 7%. So the comparison appears to be solely on body type and defense rather than hitting skill.

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Speaking of defense, Tucker moved to outfield from 1B in 2012 due to questions about his defense. Because of his speed and arm, he will likely be limited to Left Field in professional baseball, but so far in 2012, Tucker has made zero errors while learning his new position.

Conclusion

As noted, the disparity between the scouts' opinions and Tucker's results on the field is reminiscent of Altuve's experience in the minor leagues. Some players are able to spit in the face of the scouts and continue to produce results despite the many "reasons" why they should not be able to. During his college career, Tucker hit and fielded at a level that some scouts define as beyond his ability. That's not to say that the scouts think he will fail, just that they doubt he will be a star.

Regardless, mock drafts that go deep enough project Tucker to be drafted somewhere around the third round. It is doubtful that the Houston Astros will draft Tucker because they have little need to use their high draft picks on a college senior outfielder while their outfield for the next five years or so appears to be set with J.D. Martinez, George Springer, and Domingo Santana (among others currently auditioning for the roles). On the other hand, the Astros might see Tucker as a player who can fill in at 1B and LF to give the starters a day off, while serving as otherwise-full-time DH. Most likely, Tucker will be drafted by an American League team who will use the DH possibility as insurance against his "atypical fielder's body and average defense". Unless he continues to produce.

Here is a video of Tucker's swing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8C_iSZdsAo

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