Thursday, March 6, 2014

Preston Tucker vs. Allen Craig

In Jonathan Mayo's Pipeline Preview on the Astros' farm system (which is definitely worth a longer read), we find a little nugget from Wizard Jeff Luhnow about Preston Tucker:

He has the chance to be a real offensive producer. I'm hoping he becomes the Allen Craig of our system -- a guy who was drafted in the bottom half of the top 10 rounds, a senior sign, didn't get a ton of money out of college, but just produced his way through the Minors and eventually became a productive Major League player. That's what we're hoping for.

Now, obviously Luhnow didn't say, "We think he's Allen Craig," but it's worth looking at a little more closely.

Tucker was a 7th Round pick in the 2012 draft out of the University of Florida, Craig was the 8th Round pick in the 2006 draft out of the University of California, and of course both were Luhnow draftees.

Tucker made his pro debut in 2012 for the Tri-City ValleyCats, and in 42 games hit .321/.390/.509, striking out 16 times in 187 PAs (with 18 walks). He skipped Quad Cities in 2013 and went straight to Lancaster, where he hit .326/.384/.544 with 45K:29BB (13.5% K-rate: 8.7% BB-rate) in 333 PAs. That got him a call-up to Corpus for the final 60 games of the season, where he hit .262/.347/.456 - obviously a dropoff from the Coors Light of Lancaster and the Cal League, but still a 17.1% K-rate and a 10% BB-rate.

Craig followed the exact same path, jumping from the NYPL straight to High-A - hitting .312/.370/.530 in the much more pitcher-friendly Florida State League. At Double-A Springfield in 2008, Craig hit .304/.373/.494 with a 15.3% K-rate and an 8.4% BB-rate.

So to this point in their careers Craig has been a better hitter. But Craig didn't make it to Triple-A until 2009, his Age 24 season. In 126 games for Memphis, Craig hit .322/.374/.547 and followed that up in 2010 by hitting .320/.389/.549. After 83 games he got called up to St. Louis and has only made rehab appearances in the minors since. I'm not saying that Tucker is going to make that jump - but the strikeout and walk rates have been somewhat comparable, and an .803 OPS in your Double-A debut at Age 22 isn't anything to sneeze at. 

Add that Tucker will be in his Age 23 season, presumably starting the season at Corpus and - if things go "right" - ending 2014 in OKC, perhaps with a call-up to Houston in September.

The Astros have some outfield prospects pushing. It looks as though your Houston outfielders will be Dexter Fowler, Robbie Grossman, and L.J. Hoes/J.D. Martinez/Marc Krauss. And of course there's George Herman Babe Springer, Domingo Santana, and Delino DeShields waiting (with Springer obviously ahead of everybody on the depth chart). But it's not hard to envision a future in which Fowler gets traded and any of the other outfielders not exactly performing at a high level. Preston Tucker may be in a good position - depending on how his 2014 goes.