The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Wednesday that shortstop Cole Tucker had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder today and the recovery from that injury is usually 10-12 months. The surgery was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. That means that Tucker will miss most of the 2016 season, possibly the entire season if it’s the top end estimate. Best case scenario is that he returns in early July.
Tucker last played on July 28th and for awhile he was just icing his shoulder, remaining with West Virginia on the bench. He was finally put on the disabled list a couple weeks later and went for an opinion on his shoulder. The Pirates had the shoulder looked at by a second doctor this week and they decided to have the surgery.
In his first full season, the 2014 first round pick hit .293/.322/.377 in 73 games, showing some defensive skills at shortstop. He also stole 25 bases in 31 attempts. It was a fine season, especially when you consider his age in low-A ball. Tucker turned 19 at the beginning of July, so he was at an advanced level for his age. Since he is still so young, he could return to West Virginia at the end of next year and still be considered young for the level.
UPDATE 5:53 PM: Thoughts from Tim Williams…
It’s strange how much the system has changed in terms of shortstop depth in just a short amount of time. A few years ago, losing a shortstop prospect like Tucker to injury would have been a big blow to the system depth. Now? It almost clears up a playing time issue. Next year the Pirates would have had Kevin Newman likely ticketed for Bradenton, with Tucker going back to West Virginia and possibly moving up to Bradenton in the second half. That would have eliminated shortstop as a possibility for Kevin Kramer, and would have held Adrian Valerio back from an aggressive push.
Obviously you want Tucker healthy and creating that scenario. He’s one of the best prospects in the system when he’s healthy, and really started showing his potential in his last two months in West Virginia, after a slow start to the year. The biggest concern with any shoulder injury is whether the arm strength will return. That could hurt Tucker’s chances of sticking on the left side of the infield in the future, which might hurt his value a bit. That’s a small concern now, and mostly something to focus on when he returns.
Right now the concern would be getting him back healthy. On the short end of this timeline, he could be back for the second half of next season, which could still put him on pace for Bradenton in 2017. He’s so young that even if he loses a full year, he’d still end up as one of the youngest players in the Florida State League if he went there in 2017.