Astros Expect Kyle Tucker To Factor In 2018

They called him Ted.

On the evening the Astros selected Kyle Tucker fifth overall in the 2015 draft out of Tampa’s Plant High, television analysts likened his swing to that of Ted Williams.

Three years later, while Tucker attended his first big league camp, word circulated among the veterans. He arrived one morning to the club’s West Palm Beach, Fla., facility with a new name placard above his locker bearing the nickname.

Tucker did not flaunt the treatment, nor did he resist the good-natured ribbing, taking the teasing in stride. His fit into an established, tight-knit clubhouse was unmistakable.

His production wasn’t bad, either.

Tucker exited the Grapefruit League with a team-high four home runs and, when he was reassigned to minor league camp, had hit .410/.429/.795 in 42 plate appearances.

“A stud,” fellow 2015 first-rounder Alex Bregman said.

The Astros entered camp with few questions, and many of the club’s roles were already explicitly defined.

As a result, even as the lefthanded-hitting Tucker continued to produce eye-popping numbers, Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow reiterated the organization’s plan to begin his season in the minors.

More at-bats—and success—against lefthanders are required before Tucker receives a callup. Hinch acknowledged Tucker will play some left field—the lone unsettled position on the big league club—this season.

Asked if he expected to see Tucker this season with the big league club, Luhnow said, “I do.”

“He’s still young,” Luhnow said of the 21-year-old. “We want him to continue to work on defense. We want him to continue to work on some swing adjustments, so he can just get more reps and face better and better pitching. There’s a lot of good pitching in Triple-A and Double-A that’s better than what he’s faced in his career thus far.

“Obviously, he showed this spring he can handle some good pitching. That’s good, but there’s still a little bit of finishing touches for him.”

>> Though Hinch said he “had an argument” to make the Astros’ Opening Day roster as a bullpen arm, righthander Francis Martes is viewed as a starter. He will begin the season in Triple-A Fresno’s rotation after throwing 54.1 innings out of the big league bullpen last season.

>> Righthander Rogelio Armenteros should be in the Fresno rotation, too, after striking out 20 in 14.1 Grapefruit League innings during his first big league camp.

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