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Oops! All Astros: Kyle Tucker

Kyle Tucker is the 200th player in our offseason-long review of each player to appear in Houston’s system.

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Philadelphia Phillies Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve reached Kyle Tucker in our offseason-long review of each player to appear in Houston’s system in 2022.

Tucker is number 200 of 316 in total, and we’ll actually finish this series the day after the first Spring Training game (with rookie-level reliever David Landeta).

Kyle Tucker is a six-foot-four, 199 lb. lefty-batting righty-throwing rightfielder from Tampa, FL. Born on January 17, 1997, Tucker was Houston’s first-round choice in 2015 out of H.B. Plant HS. That round of that draft has produced 32 MLB players thus far, led by none other than Alex Bregman (30.5 WAR). Considering Houston’s recent free agency targets, maybe it’s not surprising that second out of that group is Andrew Benintendi (15.7). Tucker is fifth with 12.8 career WAR.

Thirteen players taken fifth overall have accrued a career WAR greater than 10, and 38 major leaguers in total. That group is led by Dwight Gooden (53.0) and Mark Teixeira (50.6). H.B. Grant HS, meanwhile, is responsible for 19 then-future major leaguers, led by Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs (91.4). Tucker is second. Tucker entered a deal with the Astros to an initial contract that included a $4 million signing bonus.

Tucker rose through the minor leagues at more-or-less an average pace, driving his OPS sharply upward at each stop. He notched a .647 at rookie ball in 2015, .798 between Low- and High-A in 2016, .874 between High-A and Double-A in 2017, and .989 in 100 games at Triple-A in 2018. Also in 2018, he made his major league debut, hitting .141 in 28 contests.

In 2019, Tucker hit .266 in 125 Triple-A contests, with 34 round-trippers and 30 stolen bases. In another 22 games of major league action, he hit .269. Between 2020 and 2021, he played in 198 games for Houston Astros at the top level of baseball, slashing .287/.349/.544 with 39 round-trippers, 134 RBI, and 22 stolen bases in 25 attempts.

The 2022 campaign opened for Tucker as Houston’s Opening Day right fielder, and he batted everywhere from first through sixth in the lineup, but mostly fifth. In the second game of the season, a 13-6 win against the Los Angeles Angels, he hit a pair of home runs with four RBI.

After 13 games, however, Tucker was hitting just .087, with those two homers accounting for half of his hits through the season to that point. From April 23 through May 2, Tucker rebounded with an 18-for-38 performance, including six multiple-hit games. On August 12, in a 7-5 Houston win against the Oakland Athletics, Tucker racked up his highest WPA of the season, a mark of .432 by hitting a leadoff single in the second and the go-ahead grand slam in the fifth.

Overall, Tucker hit .257/.330/.478 with 30 home runs and 107 RBI. He also stole 25 bases in 29 attempts, made his first All-Star appearance, and won his first Gold Glove in right field. He added 29 doubles and scored 71 runs, drawing 59 walks and striking out 95 times. On a Houston Astros ball club that can at worst be described as fully loaded, Tucker ranked third with a 5.2 WAR, behind only Yordan Alvarez (6.8) and Justin Verlander (5.9).

In a career that’s only five years old, Tucker already has 191 postseason plate appearances. This year, he went 10-for-49 with three home runs and six RBI. In Game One of the World Series, he went three-for-four with two homers and four RBI in a losing effort as the Philadelphia Phillies defeated Houston in 10 innings, 6-5.

Tucker’s salary in 2023 is estimated at $5,948,937 by Baseball reference, meanwhile, has Tucker in line to hit .272 with 25 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 2023 — around a four WAR season, or $34 million based on $WAR being set at $8.5 million. Houston would be wise to consider getting Tucker in on the ground floor here with an early extension to both foster goodwill with an up-and-coming superstar and to lock in an offensive and defensive stalwart five years before the average statistical peak of multiseason ballplayers, their age-30 campaign. Unfortunately, that ship may have already sailed.

Even so, the Astros have Tucker for three years of control before he gains unrestricted free agency, and that’s not nothing. Thanks for reading.