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To recap the countdown so far:
We continue the countdown with the number 15 prospect, Cole Tucker.
15. Cole Tucker, SS
The Pirates appeared to be higher on Cole Tucker than most when they took him in the first round in 2014. After the draft, it was revealed that other teams were in on him as well, and that he probably wouldn’t have been available if they would have waited until their second pick in the draft. They continued the aggressive approach with him, sending him to full-season West Virginia in his age 18 season, making him one of the youngest players at the level.
Tucker started slow, which could be expected from the aggressive placement. There were times where it appeared that he might have been pushing too much, and other times where it looked like the hitting came easy for him. He had a .608 OPS through the month of May, but saw much better results the next two months of the season. From the start of June until the end of July, Tucker had a .797 OPS.
Unfortunately, Tucker’s season ended there, as he went down with labrum surgery in early August. The injury ended his season, and will put him out for 10-12 months, potentially putting him out for all of the 2016 season, and at best seeing a late summer return. There would also be concerns about his arm strength moving forward, and his ability to stick on the left side of the bag. The Pirates have added a lot of shortstop depth the last few years, so this is less of a concern than it might have been when Tucker was drafted.
Tucker has a lot of speed and range, so the arm strength would be the only thing holding him back if that becomes an issue. He doesn’t project as a big power hitter in the future, but has a projectable frame and the ability to hit line drives to the gaps. He commands the strike zone well, and has a good feel for hitting, with the left side producing better results.
Fortunately, Tucker is young enough that, even if he does miss an entire year, he will still be age appropriate and on pace as a top prospect. He has the offensive upside that he’d still be a top prospect at second base, but if he can play shortstop, that would be a huge boost to his value. It’s too early to tell right now where his career will go after the injury, and that should become more clear during his rehab in 2016.