Cole Tucker Calls Signing with Pirates “Surreal”

Cole Tucker Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates made official their signing of first-rounder Cole Tucker. (Photo Courtesy: Pittsburgh Pirates)

Cole Tucker made the press corps laugh from his first sentence, as he struggled to button up his new Pirates jersey.

“You always say you never want to be the guy up there fiddling with his button in front of the entire press conference,” Tucker joked.

If you can gleam any characteristics of a first-round draftee from his introductory press conference, none are baseball-related other than how he looks in that jersey. What you can gather are maturity and personality with the media. For that, the 17-year-old Tucker appeared mature, at ease and certainly humble.

“I feel like if I want to be a major leaguer, I have to improve in every aspect of my game,” Tucker said. “There’s nothing I do right now that’s good enough to be out there on that field right now.”

Tucker joins the Pirates organization, starting out with the Gulf Coast League Pirates in Bradenton, after agreeing to a below-slot $1.8 million signing bonus. He said he knew the Pirates would take him with the 24th overall selection about two picks before it happened, and going that early meant forgoing his commitment to the University of Arizona.

“I was jumping up and down, screaming, shouting” after being selected, Tucker said. “I just kind of went numb. It was a really cool day.”

Neal Huntington and Cole Tucker

Pirates GM Neal Huntington and Cole Tucker at the introductory press conference. (Photo Courtesy: Pittsburgh Pirates)

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington praised Tucker’s “now” defensive skills and said that the team’s scouts saw a shortstop who was growing and developing.

“They saw a 17-year-old that is a year ahead of where most in his class are,” Huntington said. “They felt that if he were being drafted next year, he’d be in the top 5 or 10 picks in the country in his 18-year-old season.”

That notion runs counter to Tucker’s ranking of 84th by Baseball America and 62nd by Keith Law entering the draft, though Peter Gammons reported that the Oakland Athletics were ready to take Tucker with the following pick.

Huntington added that Tucker “makes the defense look easy, good hands, good feet, good arm, but also swings a bat. And that’s getting better and better as we go through it.”

Tucker described himself as a “baseball junkie” and emphasized his Pirates connections, like being family friends with former first baseman Kevin Young and current third baseman Pedro Alvarez. He says Alvarez reached out to him after the Bucs selected him in the draft.

Alvarez told him, according to Tucker, “It’s gonna be a long grind. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs. The key through the whole thing is just be consistent.”

Now it is off to Bradenton and Pirate City for one of the newest Buccos, but signing day represented a lifelong dream coming to fruition.

“It was so surreal for me,” Tucker said. “[When] you see that contract in front of you and you have all these guys around you watching you sign it, it really hit me hard.”

James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • jaygray007

    sure sounds like he was right behind either Casey Gillaspie, Grant Holmes or Bradley Zimmer on their board.

    Sounds like a good kid.

    It seems like the pirates like to bet on strong defenders who can become major leaguers based on defense alone and anything from the bat is really just bonus.

    Extending Marte and Cutch, attempting to extend Polanco, drafting Tony Sanchez (funny we are now worried about his throwing and like him for his bat. that wasnt the case at the time of the draft), signing Russ Martin, and drafting Cole Tucker, Reese McGuire, and i guess Austin Meadows to an extent as their recent 1st rounders.

    every big position player investment they’ve made in recent years has been to players with strong defense. Everyone on that list except for Sanchez is extremely athletic as well. They have a plan. These are they types of guys who age well.

    after making this list, i’ve never been so convinced that Pedro will be on another team in 2 years.

  • William Wallace

    James Santelli welcome back! Tucker seems mature past his age. Maybe the brain-trust knows something after all. I hope he turns out to be the real deal. I see you were awarded the Chick Hearn Memorial– Do it proud he was a great man.

    • RB

      Ditto on the welcome back. Always enjoyed your writing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

    Grabbing a guy the year before he becomes a top-10 pick is not a bad idea, if that really were going to be the case. Get him started with proper development a year early, get him a lot cheaper. Should be interesting.

  • SteveW

    I didn’t realize Tucker was still only 17. That makes him almost a year younger than many of the other HS picks. That is HUGE in terms of development when talking about someone his age, and is certainly one reason he went when he did.

  • R Edwards

    His humility, personality, and maturity beyond his years has already made me a fan of this 17 year old kid! I will be rooting hard for him to be successful – maybe I will get to see him play in person in the next few of years, if he finds himself playing a game in Aberdeen, MD, Frederick, MD, Bowie, MD, Harrisburg, PA, Altoona, PA, Reading, PA, Wilmington, DE – all drivable for me. I remember seeing McCutchen play in Aberdeen, MD when he was 18-19 years old when he was with Williamsport. Hit a triple in his first at bat – you could tell then he was special. I hope I get that same feeling with Tucker. Seems like a very well adjusted and nice young man.

    • Leefoo Rug Bug

      It’scertainly fun to watch these kids in the minors.

  • freddylang

    All the fans vouch for Pedro that watching him all these years has been a grind. We love you Pedro…when you hit a homer.

  • freddylang

    I have seen a lot of experts mention lack of power but he had 17 XBH in 84 AB. Just HS but that is a lot of line drives in just a few AB. Factor in the young age and bigger frame and he will be one of the more interesting prospects to follow.

  • mlash

    My only worry about letting Pedro go is that he’ll be a late bloomer and put up some ridiculous years like Ryan Howard did for the Phillies after he turned 29. If he could only bat .270… his K/BB rate is going to be much better than last year so that’s some progress.

    • SteveW

      If Pedro leaves for free agency, he will be 30 when his first season begins for a new team. Howard never had a great year after Age 29. He had two fairly good offensive years at 30 and 31 (although his terrible defense left him with a barely positive WAR), then three consecutive poor years (including this year). During those three years, he has an OPS of .740 in a great hitters park and an over negative WAR – and has received $65 Million for doing it. Plus the Phils will owe him another $60 Million in the future! One of the worst contracts in MLB history.

      • mlash

        Fair points, perhaps I should have looked up Howard’s peripheral stats first…. I guess we’ll find out for sure before Pedro is out of team control if he will ever turn into a consistent power threat with more BBs and a higher OBP. If it doesn’t happen by age 30 it probably ain’t gonna happen for El Toro, unfortunately.

  • Nuke Laloosh

    Position of need for the Pirates in the system. He can grow into his frame and be a very good SS for the Pirates.

    • rburgh

      SS a position of need? Alen Hanson, Gift Ngoepe, Adam Frazier, JaCoby Jones, Cole Tucker, Adrian Valerio. I wouldn’t be shocked to see any one of those guys end up as a quality ML SS. Jones is more of a 3B prospect to me, Hanson 2B, and Frazier a utility guy, but they have a shot. But note that Brock Holt is playing quite a lot for Boston and Frazier rates to be better than Brock in my book.

      Ngoepe – Emilio Bonifacio with a great glove.
      Tucker – total wild card, could be anything at this point. And I hope he doesn’t grow too much – although I guess I would be happy with a switch-hitting Tulo. :)

      Valerio – super glove, hitting a little in the DSL at 17. That puts him miles ahead of the Gift. It will be interesting to watch Tucker and Valerio go through the system for the next few years.

      • Nuke Laloosh

        None of which are spoken of in great terms. Will Hanson stick at SS? Is Ngoepe a real prospect? Not according to this site. Is Frazier? Jones is a great athlete but when drafted was an outfielder. Valerio is still in the DL. IT IS a position of need!

  • Nuke Laloosh

    Position of need for the Pirates in the system. He can grow into his frame and be a very good SS for the Pirates.

  • piraddict

    Impressive that he can use the word surreal appropriately as a seventeen year old. Looks gangly to me, but then Polanco probably looked like that a few years ago. It will be very interesting to see what this kid looks like after a couple of years of the Pirates’ weight training and developmennt program.