As I’m sure every person on this board knows, Kyle Tucker’s abysmal entry into the MLB last year did not inspire confidence. What may be surprising to some who didn’t read this article, is that he may have had a better year last year than many believe.
From a BABIP and xWOBA perspective, Tucker had the largest deviation between his expected results and the actual results in all of baseball. Which could be summarized simply as he had the worst luck in baseball in the small sample size.
During the previous discussions, one of our posters, Chillout17 had recommended that I do a deep dive of Kyle Tucker’s swing. This isn’t an area of expertise for me, and I was lucky to be able to pick his brain as he has a large amount of experience in these types of analyses.
So why is he known as Ted Tucker?
Looks like Teddy Ballgame to me. pic.twitter.com/dV3oyF09jk— Go 'Stros! (@DannyPresson) November 5, 2017
The most obvious thing you hear about him is the similarity to Ted Williams swing, so much so that the New Yorker actually wrote an article about it. He was actually cast to play Ted Williams in a movie due to the similarities. A compliment for sure, but lots of players get compared to Hall of Famers as prospects, so we will look if the scouts echo that sentiment and look at any potential holes in his game.
Let’s take a look at what scouts have said about him (will shorten to only the portion about his bat for our discussions today):
”the bat is the calling card here, with above-average bat speed, feel to hit, and an advanced approach. He has an easy swing and a knack for finding the barrel like few others in the Midwest League this season. The power will develop as his strength does, and it shows projection for utility thanks to a combination of bat speed and barrel awareness.”
”he could show even more power than he currently does; swing is a tad unconventional to the naked eye but it works; “ - John Sickels Minorleagueball
”Tucker has an unconventional left-handed swing, but he makes it work with his bat speed and his uncanny hand-eye coordination. He recognizes pitches well and makes contact more easily than most players with his power potential. He has a solid plan at the plate and traded some patience for pop last year” - MLB.com
Here is what Hinch had to say about Tucker and his swing in his interview with Brian McTaggart at the end of the season:
”When I talked to him, I congratulated him on his year because I don’t want numbers in the big leagues to sour his pride of the kind of season he had,” Hinch said. “He dominated the Minor Leagues. He came up here a couple of different times -- the first time had a real opportunity, and this last time was more of a tip of the cap to him for having a successful season.
”I think he’s learned a lot. I think he’s got to come up with a ‘B’ swing that will allow it to be more adjustable to different styles of pitches and different ways that guys attack them. We talked a little about his mechanics, about what he’s learned, the different pitches he’s seen in the big leagues. I told him to come win the job next year as an outfielder. Right now, I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but if the opportunity is there, he’s going to be in the mix to compete to make our team next spring.”
As noted above, Tucker has a somewhat unconventional swing, which has drawn comparisons to Ted Williams, Ken Griffey, Daryl Strawberry, and to me looks very similar to Paul O’Neils.
Tucker’s swing starts very tall, upright and balanced stance with minimal movement, which is good for repeatability. He loads his hands lower than others, around his armpits, pulling his hands back to further load them at the start of his swing. He has a short stride, opening up to just past shoulder width, with a very level bath path leading to a strong line drive approach.
Due to his above average bat speed, and barrel awareness he is able to drive pitches with authority, especially in the middle to lower half of the zone. He maintains strong fundamentals, driving his hips forward and keeping his hands back. He is recognized as having good eye in the batters box, being noted as too selective earlier in his career, but has altered his approach this year to gain additional power. On pitches he can’t handle, Tucker does a good job of fouling off pitches, keeping himself alive, an attribute of his level swing.
Currently Fangraphs has him listed at 65 Raw Power, and 40 game power. As he grows and develops into his lanky frame it is easy to see where he could gain a significant increase in power output while maintaining an above average contact approach.
I think the biggest item of note, is Hinch’s mention of the need for a “B” Swing. In discussing with ChillOut17, we found a strong correlation with Tucker’s challenges on up and in pitches with higher level velocity fastballs. He attempted to “cheat” by preparing for them, occasionally leaving him vulnerable to pitches down and away.
Baseball is always a game of adjustments, and this will be a primary factor on Tucker’s ability to grow into a superstar in the future. There are a few different ways for Tucker to approach the change, but all are easier said than done.
Tuckers initial adjustment was to cheat by bringing his hands up earlier, this does help cover that portion of the zone but due to his level swing, puts a new hole down and away. If Tucker is able to recognize the high pitch / inside pitch earlier, an alternative remedy would be to pull his front foot further towards first base and increase the loading on his rear foot providing more room for his hands to be able to adjust and still gain some extension in this area of his swing.
With advanced scouting reports and the improved control and velocity in the major leagues, it will be paramount for Tucker to build a “B” swing to prevent from this hole in his swing from being exploited. To me, this will largely determine whether he becomes an average to above player or truly a consistent all-star level threat.
What does all of this mean?
Well there are a few key take-aways. First off, Tucker has received a lot of undue attention in regards to his inability to perform at the major league level. If his at bats had resulted in the expected results based on exit velocity, launch angle, and location of hit, we would be looking at a .268/.363/.382 hitter in his first taste in the majors. If he had produced at that level, I doubt there would even be a question of trusting Tucker next year.
With a very full outfield of Springer, Brantley, and Reddick, Tucker will have to earn the spot, and push Brantley towards the DH position. (Unless additional moves are made of course) With average to above average scores in all aspects of his game, he can legitimately become one of our core players alongside Altuve, Bregman, Springer, and Correa. His largest limiting factor in potential stardom is his personality, which does not gush passion the way the other core players do, often leading people to view him as lackadaisical or not passionate.
Personally, I think Tucker will turn the corner this year, having learned from his first taste in the MLB in addition to his stats regressing towards where the expected results would be.
Do you trust Tucker in 2019?
This poll is closed.