When the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Cole Tucker with the 24th overall pick in the 2014 draft, it came as a surprise. Tucker wasn’t connected to the Pirates at all leading into the draft. He wasn’t ranked as a guy who could go in the first round. If there’s one person who wasn’t surprised, it was Tucker.
“I knew going into the day that I was going to go somewhere in the top 30-40 picks,” Tucker said. “I knew the Pirates were in the mix. They had pick 24 and pick 39. I was happy they popped me. They want me here, I want to be here, it’s a perfect fit.”
After the pick, Neal Huntington said that they didn’t think Tucker would fall to the number 39 pick. They were probably correct. In the days following the draft, we started to hear that other teams were interested and would have taken the young shortstop. Peter Gammons said that Oakland would have taken him with the next pick.
@timwilliamsP2 @heelsonthefield If the Pirates passed on Tucker, Oakland wpuld have taken him with the next pick
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) June 9, 2014
Tucker heard from a lot of teams leading up to the draft, and on draft day. Oakland was indeed interested. They sent a lot of people to his games, and had an in-home visit. The Los Angeles Dodgers were interested at pick 22, but ended up taking right-handed pitcher Grant Holmes. It makes you wonder what would have happened if Holmes didn’t fall to them. Tucker also said that the Cleveland Indians at pick 31 and the Colorado Rockies at pick 35 were interested.
Ten minutes before the pick happened, Tucker learned that he would be selected by the Pirates. It wasn’t a surprise, since they had been following him closely. They had an in-home visit with him last fall. They went to his high school practices before the season began, then heavily scouted him during the season. One thing the Pirates liked about Tucker was the fact that he was a year younger than everyone else, giving him an extra year to develop and improve his stock in their system. Tucker thought that his young age would be a problem for teams.
“I figured going into this pro ball thing that it was going to be a disadvantage, but I ended up finding out it was an advantage to be younger,” Tucker said.
Tucker signed quickly and made his pro debut yesterday in the GCL. The results weren’t strong, as he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and two walks, along with three errors.
“It’s what you dream about. Obviously I would have liked to play a little better today,” Tucker said. “But getting out there, getting the jitters out, getting to play with these guys is awesome. Putting on a pro uniform, it’s what every player wants to do growing up, and I get to do it everyday. So 0-for-4, or 4-for-4, can’t complain. I’m happy to be here.”
Two of the three errors were throwing errors. He also had a third throw that went wild, although he was saved by first baseman Carlos Munoz. Tucker said he needs to get on top of the ball more, as it was getting away from him a bit.
The first game struggles could have been due to rust. He hasn’t played a game since early May when his high school season ended. It could be due to first game nerves. I wouldn’t form any opinions based on one game. It will be interesting to watch how Tucker does through the entire GCL season this year, especially after all of the interest that was shown in him prior to the draft. He’ll get a chance to show why so many teams were considering him with a late first round pick, and why the Pirates took him 24th overall.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
I was thinking brilliant Neal should think figure out the lower level catching depth. Wyatt Mathisen was the top prep catcher his draft class according to BA and he plays 3rd base. He should stay in A ball and be starting catcher in 2015 breathing down McGuire’s neck who should be in Bradenton. Start Connor Joe in short season A
At catcher, these guys have great value. At 3b or RF that doesn’t have the bat to stick then they are just wasted draft picks
Shows to go you what an imperfect science talent evaluation in a draft is, and how many of the experts underestimated this youngster. Only time will tell. I guess the Pirates FO has set the stage for a blinking contest to see whether #11 HS RHP Gage Hinsz or #23 HS LHP Zach Warren want to play professional baseball. The Pirates have at least $587,000 to offer – possibly more. If Hinsz wants it, he can have it all, and the Pirates could salvage a Top 10 Draft. If not, Warren may be able to get almost all of that. IMO, Hinsz has the higher immediate return and recognition, but Warren, who just turned 18 in June, could have the better long term value once some mechanical issues are resolved.
I want Hinsz. Nice, easy delivery to add to the pool. If you offer 500,000 you’d think what’s he thinking fast forward three years he’s looking at that or knocking on the door of the Show. And he’s from Montana. What does he want in Oregon
There are a lot of other things to look at besides errors or strikeouts. How is his range? Was he over matched at the plate? How strong is his arm and so on.
I think young draft age is a new market “inefficiency” that Neal is trying to focus on.
I think other teams are aware but the McGuire, Meadows and Taylor picks last year and then the Tucker, Ludlow and Gushoe picks this year really drive the point home.
If Tucker moves at a level per year pace:
West Virginia ’16
Altoona ’19 (The first opening day he could have a beer after the game).
He will be very, VERY young. The guy could easily spend a couple years at a level.
Point is, will be much more important this kid is happy and having fun playing baseball than just raw stats. By the time he hits a full season league, he will be very young for the level and a professional baseball veteran.
This is not unlike Marte, Polanco, Hanson, even Gift. These guys are ‘young’ for their level, while many years of professional baseball under their belt.