The finger prints of Jeff Luhnow are all over the last two Astros drafts. Maybe not with every pick. But they are there. This year's draft maybe even more so than last. However, there could be a real comparison between two Luhnow guys.
Preston Tucker and Allen Craig.
Craig was a college senior back in 2006 and had seen his numbers consistently improve in his four years at California. Jeff Luhnow decided to take a chance on him in the 8th round. He had hit 11 home runs that last year (remember the bats). The position move from short stop to third base or else where was obvious. But, the power and lack of walks were intriguing.
Tucker was a college senior in 2012, but he had raked from his freshman year. He posted better power numbers throughout his career at Florida and played two seasons with the BBCOR bats. He didn't have a great baseball body. Scouts questioned where he would play defensively. But, the bat was intriguing and Luhnow, along with Bobby Heck, drafted him in the 7th round.
Craig is now a first baseman with twenty home run pop to go with a high batting average and above average walk rates. He's a high on-base percentage type player who can accumulate around 2-3 WAR a year.
Preston Tucker is now playing almost all of his time in right field and putting up huge numbers in the minors which has earned him a call-up to AA.
Their birthdays are very close together, less than half a month actually. And, they were drafted and began their pro careers at the same age. So, keep that in mind.
They both started out in the New York-Penn League, skipped low-A to go straight to High-A. Craig also got a cup of coffee in AA in his first full season of pro ball and Tucker's recent promotion all but guarantees he'll have more than that.
Craig has posted a minor league career walk rate of 8% and strikeout rate just under 17%. I'll take that any day. Preston Tucker, with his much smaller sample, has him beat with a 9% walk rate and a minuscule 11.6% strikeout rate.
Tucker's low strikeout rate is skewed somewhat by his ridiculous 16 strikeouts over 187 plate appearances in Tri-City last year. However, his strikeout rate was just 13.5 in Lancaster. Craig posted a 17% rate in High-A in his same age season.
Here is Craig's batted ball numbers.
If you take out the outlier at A-, he posts about a mid-40's GB% and a LD% around 19%.
Here's Preston Tucker's.
Tucker posts similar LD% numbers, but a lower GB%. FirstInning.com doesn't post FB% and MinorLeagueCentral.com doesn't post data from Craig's early years, so we can just assume that the difference in groundball percentages is that Tucker hits more flyballs. But lets be honest, the difference wouldn't be significant.
Craig has posted some very strong power numbers, with home run totals that have gotten into the twenties for a few seasons and his fair share of doubles.
Tucker has also posted good power numbers.
The difference is that Tucker has done it in two notorious home run friendly parks with Lancaster and Tri-City. Craig was in a hitter friendly park in A- but was actually in the second friendliest pitchers park at A+ (in terms of runs, not home runs). Oddly enough, Craig's two worst power seasons were in A- and AA, which were also the two most hitter friendly parks he played in. Springfield is the sixth most home run friendly parks in minor league baseball.
Overall, it looks like Craig offers more pop.
There are some very nice batting averages in that chart. Also, as discussed earlier in plate discipline, he offers a good on-base percentage.
Nice batting averages there as well. Actually better.
Craig has consistently posted strong numbers that are well above average.
Tucker has too.
Are they similar? Absolutely. Are there differences? Absolutely. Do we need bigger samples for Tucker? Absolutely. But, there are three things that stand out to me.
The difference between the two is that Craig appeared to hit for more power in his first full season when you account for the Lancaster effect in Tucker's numbers. Of course Tucker has just a half season of data. Also, Craig struggled in a hitter friendly environment (not as friendly at TC) in the same league his first year. So, I would say I need more data, but there's a chance Craig has more power, despite an apparent lower FB%.
The second difference is that Tucker has hit for a slightly better average (could be TC and Lancaster).
The last difference is that Tucker has better plate discipline early on in their respective minor league numbers. That leads to Tuckers better average and OBP.
I think it's fair to say that Tucker has a very similar profile to Craig at the plate. There's no such thing as a perfect comparison, so I'll buy it. The defensive value that Tucker has over Craig gives Tucker a bit of an edge is possible value down the road. He also could hold the edge in getting on-base, which is no small feat. But, the question does still remain if the power transfers outside of hitter friendly environments. If it does, Tucker has a good chance to be an Allen Craig type hitter.