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Astros 40 In 40: Preston Tucker

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Bam Bam, the "Bad Body" Bruiser, is in search of consistent playing time in 2016

It's interesting to note how polarizing some players can be.  One guy who's not quite the extreme version of polarizing (there are very few people of which I'm aware who just can't stand to watch him play) but still elicits a wide range of reactions among Astros fans is second year Major League outfielder and designated hitter Preston Tucker.

According to Scott Strandberg's 2016 profile for Tucker on his FanGraphs player page, Astros fans should expect limited playing time for Tucker in 2016.  Strandberg also echoes the sentiments of many Astros fans who feel it's most likely that Preston opens the 2016 season at Triple-A Fresno, rather than with the Major League team where he posted a .243/.297/.437 slash line with 13 home runs in 323 plate appearances (a pace of 25 home runs over a full season of 625 or so plate appearances) as a rookie during the 2015 season.

Thanks to a strong May showing (.306/.377/.516, .893 OPS, .210 ISO, .385 wOBA, 146 wRC+) and an even stronger July showing (.314/.344/.570, .914 OPS, .256 ISO, .390 wOBA, 150 wRC+) Tucker was able to post numbers that, at around the mid-way point of the season, showed him as hovering around the eighth best rookie in the league and the fifth best hitter on the Astros.  June was tough on him, and August (the month where he hit the "magical" sixty game mark) was absolutely brutal, and his overall numbers at the end of the season finished up looking very average.  A 100 wRC+ (which is literally the definition of league average) coupled with a .318 wOBA left some Astros fans feeling - understandably - less than satisfied.

But those (admittedly BABIP-fueled) May and July numbers say to me that with the rookie year out of the way and with some time to adjust, it's not unreasonable to expect Tucker to carry his weight offensively in the Major Leagues, and perhaps even succeed offensively at a reasonably high level within the next couple seasons.  There's a reason the scouting catch-all phrase "he hits everywhere he goes" is applied to Tucker fairly regularly - it's true.

The problem with Bam Bam doesn't appear to be his bat, but his glove.  Or, more pointedly, the lack of a depth chart spot for his glove to play.  He's not a very good defender in the outfield.  This is no secret.  Colby Rasmus becoming the first player in history to accept a Qualifying Offer had at least one obvious deleterious effect immediately: it almost certainly hurt Preston Tucker's chances of playing a meaningful number of games in the outfield this year. It has been rumored that the team might take a look at him at first base this spring, but it doesn't seem likely that he sees much time playing there once the season gets underway.

I still maintain that a large number of starts at designated hitter should be on the docket for Tucker this season, but as that doesn't appear likely either, he will probably end up a bench player at most or a Triple-A starter until an injury in the Major League outfield brings him back as the first man up.