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Kyle Tucker is not hitting anything but fastballs

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The 23-year-old outfielder has excelled against fastballs, but hasn’t found success off breaking and offspeed pitches. Is this a red flag?

MLB: Houston Astros at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I know Kyle Tucker’s talent is undeniable. The guy is less than a year removed from a 30-30 season in Triple-A and he’s been one of the best prospects in the organization for years. In 2020, at least so far, he’s getting playing time as the Astros left fielder and finally surpassed the 72 plate appearances he accumulated in both 2018 and 2019.

But I find very intriguing the fact that he’s not hitting anything but fastballs. The 23-year-old is off to a .200/.238/.363 start at the plate along with five doubles, one triple, and two home runs. He’s compiled 10 runs batted in, 16 scored runs, three steals, four walks, and 25 (!!!) strikeouts.

That partial success is all due to how he has performed against heaters: a .304 batting average and a .587 slugging percentage, the kind of numbers you would expect out of him. Until Monday, he was 14-for-46 off fastballs.

But here’s when everything goes wrong. Against breaking and offspeed stuff, he’s 2-for-34 (.059) with a single. He’s sat down on strikes FIFTEEN times, that is, 44.1% percent of his plate appearances against those pitches. As you’ll see below, he’s barely left the infield hitting that kind of pitches...

His exit velocity average went from 95.5 MPH in 2019 against offspeed pitches to 87.2 MPH this year. The same happened to his chase% with that kind of pitch: it went from 36.8% to 52.2% during this campaign.

As if it wasn’t enough, the outfielder is swinging at balls out of the strike zone 38.5% of times and making contact on 65.7% of those swings. The worst part is his exit velocity when he chases pitches out of the zone: 84.8 MPH, which will probably end up in opponent defenders’ gloves.

If Tucker wants to be successful at this level, as he was last year, not only he obviously needs to begin hitting all kind of deliveries, but also he needs to hit the ball higher: 50% of his smacks has gone to the ground.

Let’s hope this is sort of a bad start and he makes adjustments soon so that he can translate his Triple-A numbers onto the stage where they really count.