Every time I go to sleep, there are always things keeping me awake. As I lay there thinking about whatever it is that enters my thoughts, some questions tend to cross my mind. Am I living life to the fullest? Where does almond milk come from? And why does it taste so good? But there is one question I always end up asking myself: Is everyone too low on Kyle Tucker this year?
Just last season, Tucker supplied 30 HRs, 92 RBIs, and 14 SBs for the Houston Astros in his fourth year in the majors. Tucker’s slashes of .294/.359./.557 were mighty impressive as he produced career highs in nearly every statistical category. The former fifth-overall pick also had an average EV (exit velocity) of 91.4 and a max EV of 111.1 in the 2021 campaign. His 91.4 average EV was in the 85th percentile of all MLB players (9th among OFs with >=500 PAs) and his max EV was in the 79th percentile (25th among OFs with >=500 PAs).
The power was certainly there for Tucker in 2021 as he connected on a career-high 49 barrels (11.6% barrel rate) while he had a fantastic 17.6 degree average launch angle, resulting in more balls orbiting out of the park. Additionally, Tucker had a hard hit rate of 47% last season, good enough to land him in the 83rd percentile in the MLB in that specific category.
Besides his improvements in the power department, Tucker’s xBA (expected batting average) of .307 actually suggests that he slightly underperformed in 2021. I’m not saying that Tucker is guaranteed to surpass a .300 AVG in 2022 or beyond, but his ability to create contact and get on base makes me believe he’s more than capable of building on his numbers from a season ago. It also helps that he’s in the 77th percentile in whiff rate and 81st percentile in strikeout rate, meaning that he isn’t missing the ball much or swinging at erroneous pitches.
What makes Tucker a rare outfielder in fantasy baseball is his combination of power and the ability to steal bases. Tucker is more than just an outfielder that can launch 30 HRs and record 100 RBIs—he also nabbed 14 SBs in 2021 after having 8 SBs in 2020. There’s no reason to believe he can’t see another increase in SBs in 2022 — and other statistics —especially with a potential uptick in PAs this season. What do I mean by that?
Amid the MLB’s ongoing lockout, it is assumed that Carlos Correa will be departing the Astros in favor of another team that is willing to give him the contract he desires. With Correa no longer in Houston’s lineup, Tucker should be among the candidates to see a positive rise in the batting order, leading to more opportunities at the plate.
While Tucker’s numbers in 2021 were impressive, what makes them even more impressive is the fact he didn’t see much time near the top of the batting order. To illustrate just how remarkable his numbers were last season, 396 of his 567 PAs in 2021 came from the 6th or 7th spot in the batting order for the Astros. Given Correa’s expected departure — along with the chance that Houston elects to go with Tucker’s power upside over Michael Brantley’s contact higher in the order — there’s an increased chance we get more from Tucker in 2022.
At the time this article is being written, Tucker possesses an ADP of 12.01, according to the NFBC. He’s currently the fifth OF being selected (on average) in drafts and there is an argument to be had that he’s in a better position to succeed than a couple of the OFs being taken ahead of him.
It’s tough saying that players being taken on the back end of the first round in 12-team leagues are being undervalued. But in Tucker’s case, there’s a legitimate chance (barring injury) that he concludes the upcoming season as one of the top performers in fantasy baseball. If everything continues to fall into place with Tucker — a 25-year-old OF that has a skilled pedigree — we could see a performance from him in 2022 that makes him an undeniable top-five pick in 2023.