The Astros have called up top prospect Kyle Tucker, The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan reports (Twitter link). Jake Marisnick will be sent down to Triple-A in the corresponding move, as per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter).
Tucker, 21, has been considered one of the game’s better prospects since he was selected fifth overall in the 2015 draft. Preseason prospect rankings (15th on Baseball America’s list, MLB.com 17th, Baseball Prospectus 20th, ESPN’s Keith Law 21st) tabbed him as being on the verge of Major League readiness, though he hadn’t played in Triple-A prior to this season. Tucker didn’t miss a beat playing at the top minor league level, batting .306/.371/.520 with 14 home runs over 371 plate appearances for the Fresno Grizzlies, strong statistics even in a hitter-friendly league like the PCL.
This marks Tucker’s second straight year of solid power numbers, as he made slight adjustments to his approach in order to generate more pop, albeit while striking out more often (he has 70 whiffs this season). Still, he makes overall very strong contact, and his hand-eye coordination has been widely cited as excellent, which helps him deliver such good results at the plate despite a somewhat unusual swing.
Beyond the bat, Tucker has also stolen 85 bases in 113 chances over his minor league career, including 14 swipes this year. Tucker has seen significant time at all three outfield positions, though evaluators believe he is best suited for a corner spot — MLB.com’s scouting report touts Tucker’s “solid arm strength” as a good fit for eventually becoming a right fielder.
This defensive versatility gives the Astros another valuable piece to work with in their pursuit of another World Series title. George Springer is the only true everyday outfielder in the Houston lineup, playing either center field or right field, with Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Tony Kemp and (before today) Marisnick all getting action in the other two positions based on matchups. Gonzalez has recently been deploying his superutility skills at shortstop with Carlos Correa on the DL, and thus the Astros may have felt the time was right to add a stronger bat like Tucker into their outfield mix. Tucker, Reddick, and Kemp are all left-handed hitters, though Kemp has hit well from both sides of the plate this year, so Houston doesn’t necessarily have an unbalanced outfield picture. The ’Stros also have two more young outfield options in J.D. Davis and Derek Fisher at Triple-A for further depth.
It’s worth noting that Tucker has been a frequent subject of trade rumors over the last couple of years, with teams like the White Sox, Pirates, and Marlins all showing interest in the outfield prospect. In regards to the Miami talks, it was reported that Houston was at least open to moving Tucker if it meant getting J.T. Realmuto back in return, though nothing ever came of those negotiations. There hasn’t been any trade buzz on Tucker in recent months, however, not that Tucker was ever really considered an expendable piece for anything less than a top-tier asset like Realmuto. It certainly appears as through the Astros consider Tucker to be yet another homegrown building block that can help the big league roster both now and in the future.
Marisnick’s 2017 season was something of an outlier, as he produced above-average numbers at the plate (117 wRC+ in 259 PA) while underachieving defensively. The rest of his career has been the exact opposite, as Marisnick has generally been an outstanding defender while not generating much offense at the plate. This season, for instance, Marisnick has a .190/.235/.359 slash line over 163 PA, while posting a +12.1 UZR/150 and +8 Defensive Runs Saved in 410 2/3 innings as a center fielder.