Cole Tucker, the Pirates’ first-round selection in the 2014 draft (No. 24 overall), will miss the rest of the season following surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder. All told, he could miss a year’s playing time while recovering.
The 19-year-old, selected out of Mountain Pointe (Ariz.) HS, was hitting .292/.322/.377 with low Class A West Virginia but had been on the disabled list since July 28. He was given a $1.8 million bonus to steer him from his scholarship at Arizona. He was ranked at the club’s No. 8 prospect entering the year and had moved up to No. 6 at midseason.
The Pirates were pleased with what Tucker had shown so far this season, especially given the aggressive assignment to the South Atlantic League as an 18-year-old.
“The first full season is all about figuring out what pro ball is all about, being with teammates for long sets of time,” Pirates farm director Larry Broadway said. “Obviously, offensively he did well, defensively he did well, baserunning he did well, holistically he did well. Maturity-wise, first and foremost, we could trust him (at West Virginia). He knows how to interact with people and is a high-quality, high-character kid.”
As a testament to that high-quality character, Broadway said that Tucker had expressed a desire, after surgery, to fly back to West Virginia to be with his teammates as the Power pushed for a spot in the postseason. Currently, West Virginia sits four games up on both Hickory (which won the first-half crown and is thus irrelevant) and Lakewood. Instead, Tucker is home now and will likely return to the team’s complex in Bradenton, Fla. in a week or so to begin the rehab process.
During the season, scouts were impressed by Tucker’s play and his intangibles. They liked his work as a defender, especially considering that, at 6-foot-3, he’s taller than most at his position. He wasn’t seen as an explosive player, but he took good routes and angles to the ball and had enough arm to stick at the position. Evaluators also raved about Tucker’s leadership on the field, and projected him to hit for power down the line.
And although Tucker’s injury is obviously a blow to the team’s depth chart, there are certainly other shortstop prospects in the system.
Pittsburgh started this year’s draft by selecting Arizona’s Kevin Newman, a three-time All-America honoree in the Pac-12. He was also named to Baseball America’s third-team All-America squad this fall. They followed the same plan in the second round when they selected Kevin Kramer, UCLA’s shortstop. Like Newman, Kramer was named to his conference’s All-America team, and was given a second-team nod from Baseball America.
“They’ve been good this summer but they’ve been playing since January, both of those guys were doing well down with the (West Virginia) Black Bears,” Broadway said, referring to Kramer and Newman. “They were doing great and are both solid humans. They grind and want to do good. ”
Of course, the big club also has star rookie Jung Ho Kang manning shortstop (with some time at third base as well) and contending for the National League’s rookie of the year award. Signed by the Pirates this past January, Kang is hitting .291/.367/.459 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs.