I love being early. It’s a character trait that was instilled in me early, my father always told me you never want to leave anyone waiting for you, especially if it’s for something important. While there are some downsides, such as being the guy trying to leave while everyone else is getting ready, there are some positives too. Namely showing up early to baseball games, in time to catch batting practice.
Right at the start of the season, back when the wind was bitter, unloving, and proving to be a major test for many a Low-A hitter, I showed up early for an April game between affiliates for the Diamondbacks and the Astros. Houston always manages to field a solid Low-A team and 2016 was no different. Two recent draftees were milling around the cage, waiting to take pregame cuts and flash some of that raw power. Daz Cameron showed some tools in the pregame but they didn’t carry over once the game began; he had a rough ride in 2016 and wasn’t long for the league. But Kyle Tucker…
To summon a completely washed cliche: baseball teams aren’t in the business of selling jeans. That’s true enough but there is also a definite body type that is conducive to playing major league baseball for 7 months a year, 8 if you’re lucky. Athletes are different humans and baseball players are a specific kind of thick, as the sport necessitates a certain level of strength to last from March until September or October. It’s a grind and you can see when bodies and players wear down from the abuse. There aren’t a ton of narrow hips playing everyday in the majors and there are close to zero players with narrow shoulders.
So, you have to watch for that kind of body projection when you’re maybe 30 miles away from a major league stadium and a million metaphorical miles away from the majors. You get all sorts of body types in the lower minors: small-boned, lean players with no projection left, maxed out 25-year-old DH-types with a “healthy” layer of fat over the abdomen, and then you get guys like Tucker, lean at the waist but broad shoulders, and the type of frame and projection that lets you dream on the strength to come.
Power projection isn’t just about adding muscle or mass. In fact, I would argue most of the time it’s about growing into your swing and understanding what pitches you can drive and how to box a pitcher into throwing that pitch. It’s about having a solid approach and making correct swing decisions. Austin Meadows is a good example of this concept in action: Already strong and broad, his middling power production in the past a bit puzzling. Meadows has the strength, but he’s made more progress growing into his swing and actualizing some of his above-average raw power in-game. Those kinds of adjustments are constant, especially after you’ve reached the majors. Good players are never done growing, learning and adjusting. Those that stop quickly wash out.
Tucker’s power isn’t all the way there yet. In my batting practice views he was driving balls into the gaps and occasionally lifting one over the fences. Plus raw power requires consistent bombs, so for me Tucker’s raw was just present average. In-game he showed an ability to drive the ball but it showed as mostly gap-doubles power rather than over-the-fence power in the Midwest League. Some of that ties in strongly to his present strength, some of that ties into his progression in understanding what pitches he can crush. Tucker showed me a solid approach, so I’m confident he’ll figure out which pitches he can really drive. The strength is all projection at present but he has a good reputation for working hard and the frame, well you can dream on the frame.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now