Preston Tucker is proving he can hit — and then some — with the Fresno Grizzlies.
And yet there might not be much he can do to get a promotion anytime soon to the parent Houston Astros.
Tucker homered in Fresno’s first three games of its homestand against Reno, has a .325 batting average and leads all of the minor leagues in home runs (eight, seven which have come with men on base) and RBIs (27). He’s also gotten on base in all but one of the Grizzlies’ 19 games.
According to the Houston Chronicle’s Astros beat writer, Evan Drellich, big league coaches have taken notice.
However, Tucker — a 6-foot, 215-pound mass of muscle from Tampa, Fla. — faces an uphill battle in getting a spot in the Astros’ already talented outfield of Jake Marisnick, George Springer and Colby Rasmus.
“I think it’s difficult for any of these young guys to break in. And when you have a good roster that you’re comfortable with, it’s even harder,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch told the Chronicle.
“But that doesn’t mean that their time wouldn’t come based on injury or based on extreme performance, and Tuck’s being very noticed with what he’s doing down at Triple-A.”
The 24-year-old, left-handed hitter says all he can do is keep it simple: “I’m just trying to have a good time here.”
That’s easier to do hitting in a lineup stacked with as much as speed and power as the Grizzlies have.
“I don't think I’ll play on another team where the offense is this potent up and down. It’s unreal,” he says. “It makes for a fun environment to be in and a fun place to hit.”
Tucker was the designated hitter Tuesday, going 0 for 3 in Fresno’s 3-2 loss to Reno. But he plated the team’s first run on a sacrifice fly in the fifth and also drew a walk in the bottom of the ninth.
He’s improved on his .296 career pro average with a new approach at the plate: less stride, don’t over-think. “Mentally it’s been a big thing for me to just hit it hard instead of trying to pull it or hit it the other way somewhere. I’m just trying to simplify. … I’m just trying to hit it where it’s pitched.”
Grizzlies hitting coach Leon Roberts calls Tucker a “hitterish hitter.”
It means Tucker is “ready to hit any kind of good pitch that comes in there.”
“He’s done a tremendous job so far being a good, tough out and a good hitter.” Roberts says. “He’s aggressive. You just got to make sure you keep him aggressive but on the right pitches.”
In 77 at-bats, Tucker has a .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, a .369 on-base percentage, and a .662 slugging percentage.
And Tucker’s newfound patience was on exhibit in the ninth Tuesday: Down one with one out, the tying run at second and the go-ahead at first, he worked Aces reliever Jake Barrett into a favorable 3-1 count before drawing the walk to load the bases for Jon Singleton, who flied out to center on Trayvon Robinson’s running catch at the warning track. The loss snapped the Grizzlies’ home winning streak at seven and spared Reno of the series sweep.
“We know we’re not going to score a ton every night, or there will be some days where we won’t get a hit, but we play for one run,” Tucker says. “With the offense we have, when everyone is swinging the bat well, it just goes on a roll. We’re just having a lot of fun.”