Spring Training isn’t known to be a place where statistics and gaudy numbers mean much, but for the Braves’ Preston Tucker it’s clear to see that this spring has just a little more meaning.
Tucker was a star player for the Florida Gators when he attended the university back from 2009-2012. He set school records for hits, RBI and at-bats while finishing only second in school history in home runs hit with 57 before entering the draft in 2012.
The Astros were in on Tucker from the start and managed to nab him in the seventh round. Tucker was immediately sent to Houston’s low A affiliate in New York and managed to get acquainted quickly to this new level of hitting. He posted 8 home runs in just 42 games and carried a wRC+ of 165 jumping him into the Astros Top 15 Prospects list. He followed up with another fine season in 2013 playing at the advanced A level of the Astros system posting 15 homers, an on-base percentage of .384 and another big wRC+ of 140. Tucker advanced to AA for the final 60 games of 2013 hitting 10 more home runs there for a total of 25(!) on the season. To begin the 2014 season Tucker climbed higher within the Astros top prospects list and played 65 more games at the AA level before being bumped to AAA to finish the season. With 68 minor league home runs under his belt in under three seasons of minor league ball Tucker was deemed ready for Major League competition midway through 2015.
When Tucker made his debut in 2015 it happened to be on some not so great circumstances as he was called up the day after George Springer suffered a concussion. Tucker was an immediate head turner for Houston though and hit 13 home runs in 98 games for the big-league club helping to slightly ease the pain of losing a high profile hitter like Springer.
2016 put a huge damper on things for the young outfielder. Just 48 games into the season Tucker’s season was put in jeopardy after surgery was required to fix a bony projection on his shoulder blade. Tucker did come back at the very end of the season for a 53-game stretch where he seemed to find himself again hitting 8 more homers and posting a respectable 125 wRC+ but never was able to reclaim his Major League foothold.
Then, after fully recovering in 2017, it became even harder to find a spot for Tucker on the Astros Major League roster. He spent the entire 2017 season at AAA, not for his lack of production, but simply because there was no room for him in an already crowed outfield situation for Houston. He slugged 24 home runs and carried a low batting average on balls in play of .263 leading to his low wRC+ of 102 in the minors last season.
Now as he’s come to Atlanta, who is in desperate need of some good outfield play in the corners, it looks as though Tucker will finally be able to get some regular playing time and prove that he can be the top prospect and player he was before injury derailed his path with the Astros in 2016. This spring has been great for Tucker as he is batting .378/.465/.595 in 37 at-bats over 18 games. At just 27 years old Preston Tucker still has a chance to find a groove in the Majors and luckily for Atlanta it seems he is ready to show off in 2018.