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Kyle Tucker’s era is approaching: 2021 might be his year with the Astros

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Houston needs the 23-year-old outfielder to have an impactful role from 2021 on. Tucker’s time is now.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Houston Astros Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s a perfect time for Kyle Tucker to show what he’s made of, it will be 2021. The Astros could lose outfielders Josh Reddick, Michael Brantley, and/or George Springer after 2020 and it’s not clear whether they will be able to sign them all again or not, so Tucker might be on his way to fill a big void.

Would Tucker be up to the challenge?

For sure, the Astros could get another outfielder via trade or free agency to avoid putting that kind of pressure on Tucker’s shoulders, as he’ll be only 24 years old by the start of the 2021 regular season. But his track record in the minors says he’s ready for MLB action.

Although the youngster doesn’t qualify as a prospect anymore, he was the best one in the Astros organization for a long time. Across 225 games in Triple-A since 2018, he’s recorded 258 total hits, 53 doubles, six triples, 58 home runs, 190 runs driven in, 178 scored runs, 50 stolen bases, 108 bases on balls, and a .946 OPS. Last year, he was one of two minor leaguers to accomplish a 30-30 season besides White Sox’s Luis Robert.

However, his MLB performance has fallen short of expectations. Due to his high-end prospect label, many people expected him to explode offensively during his first taste of the Major Leagues. Others would have even expected to hear from him before they heard from Yordan Álvarez.

In 72 plate appearances and 28 games in 2018 with the big league team, Tucker hit for a poor .141/.236/.203 slash line. He did look so much better last year in a 22-game span: .269/.319/.537 in the same number of PAs. The Astros hope he keeps it going in the long term and becomes a vital part of the lineup, along with José Altuve, Alex Bregman, Álvarez, and company. Take a lookt at his four MLB home runs from 2019:

They know that in a fully developed Tucker, they’d have a massive weapon with 30-30 (and even more) potential, a likely perennial All-Star. But he has to put things together to become what he’s been projected since the Astros drafted him fifth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft.

Potential available options

If the team decides to go after a free agent outfielder, they’d have plenty of options. Besides re-signing Brantley, Reddick, or Springer, Houston will have a chance to bring one of the following aboard:

  • Mookie Betts
  • Jackie Bradley Jr.
  • Jay Bruce
  • Yoenis Céspedes
  • Shin-Soo Choo
  • Nelson Cruz
  • Jarrod Dyson
  • Adam Eaton
  • Leury García
  • Marwin González
  • Alex Gordon
  • Robbie Grossman
  • Kiké Hernández
  • Matt Joyce
  • Jake Marisnick
  • Nick Markakis
  • Cameron Maybin
  • Marcell Ozuna
  • Joc Pederson
  • Hunter Pence
  • Kevin Pillar
  • Steven Souza Jr.
  • Michael Taylor
  • Ryan Braun*
  • Nicholas Castellanos*
  • Brett Gardner*
  • Starling Marte*
  • Domingo Santana*
  • Giancarlo Stanton*

Note: Players whose contracts include a 2021 option or the right to opt out for 2020 are noted with asterisks.

As for now, the Astros hope there will be a baseball season in 2020. Not only would this allow them to try to conquer another World Series trophy before having a free agent purge, but it’ll also allow them to take a glimpse of whether Tucker is ready to take over the starting role next year or not.