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Kyle Tucker May Be Arriving

Coming into this season, Kyle Tucker was widely viewed as an intriguing outfielder due to his prospect pedigree and power-speed profile while hitting in a stacked Astros' lineup. Tucker slashed .266/.354/.555 with 34 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 536 plate appearances at Triple-A last season, leaving fantasy players drooling over his upside. Tucker could be had at a bargain due to concerns over his playing time, being drafted at pick 164 in Main Event NFBC leagues. This combined with his tools made him one of the darlings of the fantasy baseball community.

Those question marks over his playing time came to the forefront as the season began, as manager Dusty Baker elected to keep Tucker out of the lineup for two of the first three games. This made many wonder if it would take a trade for Tucker to have an opportunity to realize his full potential. Things have changed since then, as Tucker has now become a fixture in the Astros' lineup, playing in every game since missing two of the first three.

In this article, we'll take a look at some encouraging signs from Tucker in the early season. Tucker has shown improvements in his batted ball profile which leaves me bullish on his fantasy value for the rest of the season. His surface stats have not yet aligned with his peripherals, providing a buying opportunity to acquire Tucker at a nice value. It appears that Kyle Tucker may be arriving!

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Surface Stats vs. Actual Stats

*Does not include 08/06 game vs. Diamondbacks

BA xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA xwOBAcon
.237 .274 .395 .465 .283 .328 .452

Expected stats look at the exit velocity and launch angle of each battled ball to assign a hit probability based on previous outcomes of similar balls in play. This does not factor in ballpark and defense, focusing on the expected outcome of each batted ball. Players with higher expected stats than surface stats are generating better contact than their outcomes would indicate. Using expected stats allows us to find buying opportunities in hitters whose value is depressed because of low surface stats. As we can see in the chart, Kyle Tucker is one of those hitters. 

Another encouraging sign in the chart is Tucker’s .452 xwOBAcon, which is a stat that excludes walks and hit by pitches, using Statcast data to only measure the contact. Tucker ranks 58th in MLB in this category, ahead of stars like Trevor Story and Mookie Betts. This demonstrates that Tucker is generating quality contact, which bodes well for the future. Let’s explore how Tucker is faring vs. specific pitches to find more context here.

Improvement vs. Fastballs

2019 122 Fastballs .344 BA .301 xBA .594 SLG .610 xSLG .413 wOBA .402 xwOBA
2020 77 Fastballs .471 BA .411 xBA .824 SLG .805 xSLG .550 wOBA .519 xwOBA

As we can see here, Tucker has improved significantly against fastballs. This shows that he has started to adapt to the increased velocity of major league pitching. 

Just take a look at how he crushed this Robbie Ray fastball for his first homer of the season:


The problem is, Tucker is having major difficulties with breaking and offspeed pitches.

Struggles with Breaking and Offspeed Pitches

Breaking .071 BA .187 xBA .071 SLG .225 xSLG .062 wOBA .180 xwOBA
Offspeed .000 BA .113 xBA .000 SLG .119 xSLG .000 wOBA .106 xwOBA

Tucker is really getting stymied by these types of pitches. His O-Swing% has increased from 35.4% to 41.3%, so it appears that he's having trouble laying off the junk.

If Tucker can lay off these pitches more often and focus on pummeling the heater, we could see the rookie start to really take off.

Platoon Splits

vs. LHP 13 PA .385 BA .385 OBP .615 SLG .431 wOBA
vs. RHP 28 PA .160 BA .250 OBP .280 SLG .224 wOBA

While it is a small sample, it's a good sign that Tucker is excelling against LHP as a left-handed batter. We'll see these stats normalize and skew towards righties, but the fact that Tucker can be competent against southpaws will ensure that his bat stays in the lineup. This is important because we have seen how the Astros have maintained a short leash with their young outfielder.

Lineup Slot

1st 6 PA
4th 5 PA
7th 9 PA
8th 20 PA
9th 1 PA

Tucker has predominantly hit in the bottom-third of the order, but it's good to see the Astros willingness to move him up in the order when one of their other hitters is out of the lineup. If Tucker starts to swing a hot bat, we could see him get bumped up, which would be a huge boon to his fantasy value.

 

Final Thoughts

So here we have a hitter with prospect pedigree who has finally found a place in this stacked Astros' lineup. Tucker already has two stolen bases, which is huge in this current climate of speed scarcity in MLB. With the improvements he's showing in his batted ball profile, we can likely expect the home runs to start coming as well. This is exactly the type of hitter you should be targeting right now. If you could pry Tucker for an outfielder like Kyle Lewis, I would endorse that move with full confidence. Tucker is about to arrive - get on the train before it takes off!



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