As if Kyle Tucker Needed to Get Better at Baseball

Kyle Tucker continues to get better and better.

The Houston Astros‘ stud outfielder has quietly gone from another outstanding hitter to an elite option in an Astros’ offense that is nowhere near the threat it was in past campaigns.

With Yordan Alvarez missing significant time, the load had been on Kyle Tucker to be the anchor of this lineup. And the duties of Tucker’s costar have been left to Chas McCormick, who’s experiencing a breakout campaign, and proving his worth. Despite Dusty Baker’s unwillingness to play him like an everyday starter early in the season.

From a fantasy standpoint, Tucker cemented himself a while back as one of the premiere dynasty assets in the game. He may not have the gaudiness of Fernando Tatis Jr., and Ronald Acuña Jr.. And maybe not the outstanding pop/hit tool of Yordan Alvarez, and Aaron Judge, but he’s the king of regular men if you want to go there.

Unfamiliar with great struggles, and producing virtually from day one, it’s been hard to do much else apart from acknowledging his pure talent. However, if you look closely, at the fashion in which Tucker has gradually improved the completeness of his game, it is simply astonishing to see such a linear, and uninterrupted growth.

Since his first full season, in the shortened 2020 campaign, Tucker has gradually refined, and improved his hit tool, with 2023 as his masterpiece, even if the counting stats won’t reach all that they could, working with a mediocre supporting staff.

In 2020, Tucker struck out 20 percent of the time and walked roughly seven percent of the time, none of which is alarming in any way. However, a below-league-average walk rate as a career trend would surely limit his value in OBP dynasties.

For instance, in that season, even with a solid .268 average, his on-base clip was only .325, which is not really something to write home about.

Over the next two seasons, Tucker continued to improve, cutting his strikeout rate down to sixteen percent, and upping his walk rate to roughly league average, thus elevating his floor, and also his upside as a hitter.

Now in 2023, Tucker is on pace for career-best marks, in both strikeout and walk rates, taking both of those marks well above the league average. And doing all of that without sacrificing any facet of his game.

Tucker has simply become more selective at the plate, swinging at 47.2 percent of his pitches, when the previous low mark for his career was 52.6% in the previous campaign. The lefty-hitting outfielder is making contact at the highest rate of his career (82.6%), and also hitting it as hard as he ever has, with an average exit velocity of 91.6.

Really, all that Tuck has done is cut down on the swings outside the zone, sitting at 24.3 percent, and subsequently his swing-and-miss game. For obvious reasons, the fewer swings you take on pitches outside the zone, the lower your whiff rate is likely to be.

Tucker’s SwSt percentage is on pace for the lowest number of his career, at 8.3 percent, when the league average is 12.2%, and his career average was over 10 percent.

Tucker’s batting average has fluctuated quite a bit over the past four seasons, even if the power has always been there. Looking ahead, with the outfielder maintaining above-average walk and strikeout rates, his OBP is much more likely to hover in a very good to a great area. Such as the .380 mark he has this season, rather than just a solid, if unspectacular area, like the .330 and .325 marks, he put up in 2022, and 2020, respectively.

If the plate discipline improvement holds up over the following seasons, and looking at the linear growth he has experienced, there is no reason to think it wouldn’t, the floor is just at a higher level.

The 30-plus homer power will be there, and so will the steals as long as the team philosophy of the Astros doesn’t interfere with it, and you can most certainly count on better counting stats in the future. Hopefully, and possibly, Yordan Alvarez delivers a full season, and the general supporting cast improves on the 102 team wRC+ of 2023.

Overall, this upgrade in plate discipline may not sound like the biggest of deals, but particularly in dynasty, it matters quite a bit. Had his K/BB remained consistent from that 2020 season, it’d be much easier to look at potentially selling high in a campaign in which he is hitting .300+, something I don’t necessarily count on, to continue long-term. However, now with the prospect, of a consistent 11.0+ percent walk rate, it changes everything.

Talking about selling high or whatever doesn’t mean I or anybody is out on a player, or even projecting regression. To take the example of a player just behind Tucker in the Hitter List, Bo Bichette. They’re rightfully rather close for the purposes of AVG Redraft.

However, particularly now with Tucker showing tangible growth in plate discipline, there is a significant gap between them as far as I’m concerned, for the purposes of OBP dynasties, and their value.

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