Cole Tucker's Days in the Major Leagues are Numbered

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One of the bigger stories at the end of last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates was the emergence of Cole Tucker.  He had been sent down to Triple-A Indianapolis for a sizable chunk of the 2021 season, but had been called back up at the end of August after the Pirates sent players elsewhere at the trade deadline. 

While not staggeringly good numbers, Tucker batted .256 in September with seven extra base hits.  He also played very well in the field at both second base and right field.  It was arguably Tucker’s best month of his major league career. 

Then Tucker continued his upward trajectory into Spring Training of this season.  He batted .297 with two homeruns among his eleven total hits, in 37 preseason at-bats.  Between his end to the 2021 season, and his productive Spring Training, Tucker had rightfully earned a spot on the Opening Day roster.  Then, after Pirate outfielder Greg Allen began the year on the Injured List, the former 1st round pick had now found himself in the Opening Day starting lineup and playing right field. 

Unfortunately, he did not pick up where he left off.  He has had a terrible first couple of games in this 2022 season.  Tucker is 0 for 7 with two strikeouts, and many poor looking swings. And while it is still way too small of a sample size to judge for this season, Tucker’s career numbers continue to get worse and worse. 

In 413 career plate appearances, Tucker is now batting .213 with just a .519 OPS.  The low career OPS is due in large part to just how poor his career OBP is at .268.  The most troubling of all of the numbers is his 106 strikeouts versus just 28 walks.  Those figures really show just how bad his approach at the plate has been. 

Tucker also isn’t bringing much beyond a good glove.  You can stomach a poor batting average sometimes if a player can bring some power or baserunning ability to the lineup.  Unfortunately, he has shown neither.  Tucker has just 27 career extra base hits and three stolen bases.  Only five of those extra base hits are homeruns. 

I can hammer away at the numbers and continue listing just how bad he has been, but I think you get the point.  Aside from a good September last season, which relative to most players can really be characterized as just average, Tucker has been a terrible hitter at the big-league level.  There is no other way to describe it but terrible. 

Also, he is no longer a prospect anymore.  At 25 years, and 413 plate appearances, he is nearly a veteran on this Pirates squad that is short on long-tenured players.  Plus, as the Pirates’ true prospects start to approach their major league ETA’s, Tucker’s days are numbered if he continues to struggle.  

Had it not been for the Allen injury, Tucker would not have found himself in the starting lineup.  All of the players who are looking to take Tucker's starting spot, Diego Castillo, Michael Chavis, and Jake Marisnick, had at least two hits in today's game.  If these players keep hitting, Tucker will quickly be without a spot in the starting lineup, and if the Buccos’ youngsters in the minors continue to improve, Tucker may find himself without a spot at all. 

With Ben Cherington’s efforts toward stockpiling prospects continuing, there are plenty of talented hitters breathing down Tucker’s neck.  It’s put up or shut up time for several Pirates players that need to show they deserve a spot when this team starts to see more success over the next few seasons.  While Tucker isn’t the only player on the hot seat, I have to say his seat is one of the hottest.  At this rate, this may have been Tucker’s last career Opening Day start, at least in a Pirates uniform.