The Explanation For Cole Tucker’s Now Ten Day Absence

Last weekend and earlier this week I was in Charleston to see the West Virginia Power play four games. One of the obvious storylines while in West Virginia is the progress of Cole Tucker, who was the Pirates’ first round pick in 2014. Unfortunately, Tucker did not play in the four games I saw. In fact, Tucker has not played since going 3-for-5 against Hagerstown on July 28th. That followed two days off, one of which saw him pulled from the lineup before the game.

After the first game I covered, I ran into Tucker in the locker room while he had an ice pack on his shoulder, despite not playing. I asked about the ice pack, and Tucker said it was nothing, while chalking the absence up to “just getting a couple of days off.” Power manager Brian Esposito called it “general soreness” and said that Tucker has earned some time off.

“It’s just a matter of, he’s a young kid, it’s his first full season, it’s a long season,” Esposito said. “We’ve hit August, and these guys have done a great job of working hard to get here everyday. They’ve gotten a lot better, they put the work in. So you’re going to be banged up a little bit. This is a good opportunity for us to get him the rest that he needs, take care of his body, take care of his health, and then when the time is right we’ll get him back in there and help us finish off the season.”

Neither Tucker nor Esposito would say that he was injured, or give specific details on why he has been out of the lineup. The timing of the absence — ten days after Friday’s game — is unfortunate, as it is interrupting a strong stretch by Tucker. He started the year slow, with a .661 OPS in April and a .579 OPS in May. He turned things around in June with a .796 OPS, and carried that over to post a .798 OPS in July.

“[I’m] just really learning about myself and what I can handle, and what my strengths are,” Tucker said of his season. “I’m really trying to use those and take it into the game with me. In April and May, I was kind of getting the feel for things, and the league, and pitchers, and how guys are throwing to me. Now I know what I’m looking for, and what other guys do, and I’m just looking to go in the game and capitalize with it.”

Tucker never really had strikeout issues early in the year, and didn’t look over-matched, but didn’t have great results. He said that one key thing was learning that just because a pitch is a strike, doesn’t mean it’s something he should try to put in play. He’s been more selective the last two months, focusing on driving specific pitches in a specific zone, rather than trying to hit every strike. Esposito has been encouraged by the progress.

“You’re talking about an 18-year-old kid that came in playing ball with some college players, some older guys,” Esposito said. “He’s out there competing. I don’t think that he struggled at any point this year. I don’t think that he’s been off the charts at any point this year. What you want in this game is consistency, and that’s exactly what he’s been. He’s consistent in what he’s doing.”

The season hit an interesting point at the start of this layoff. Ben Zobrist was traded to the Kansas City Royals on July 28th, which was the last day that Tucker played. Before it was known that Zobrist was going to the Royals, a fake Ken Rosenthal account on Twitter put out the fake report that Zobrist was traded to the Pirates for Tucker. The report was debunked as one of many fakes that time of year, but it was enough to reach Tucker, via his many Twitter followers, and even his friends and family.

“My phone exploded,” Tucker exclaimed. “Apparently something happened with Twitter, and I was going to the Rockies, and I was going to the A’s. I didn’t even know what was going on. We were in Hagerstown, and we were playing a game, and I come back to the locker room, and everyone is like ‘Oh my god, you got traded!'”

Tucker said it even reached his family, with his dad wondering what was going on with the potential trade. But everything settled down after that.

“It’s the excitement of the last week of July,” Tucker said. “I get that.”

There is still no word on when Tucker might get back into the lineup. But the hope would be that when he does return, he picks up where he left off in July, and continues the strong hitting that he’s seen in the last two months.

  • I wish I could see him live to compare him to the new guys. I believe Newman will definitely stay at SS, but as I’ve mentioned he’s nothing special just normal. Could Valerio be moved to Morgantown next year?

  • Great article as always Tim, but a 10 day absence is a little strange. I understand the rationale but that doesn’t mean you can’t get him a DH game or two. The best way to learn is by experience in my mind, and an 18 year old watching from a cramped minor league dugout for two weeks isn’t beneficial in my mind.

  • How is he defensively? Compared to Kramer and Newman?

    • The time I saw him, he made all the routine plays look easy and had good arm strength. I didn’t see much range, which was funny to me only because his favorite player is/was Derek Jeter, who he said he tries to emulate and you can’t get less range than him from a shortstop. Of course, I don’t think Tucker meant he wanted to be a statue on the field, but the comparison was funny none the less.

      Most people believe he will stick at shortstop. I need to see him once he fills outs a little, just to see if he can still handle the position, because he’s tall for the spot and I’ve seen better shortstops at Low-A move off the position.

      I can’t comment on the comparison because I’ve only seen video for the other two. Scouting reports made both seem like average shortstops if you read them all and averaged the opinions, meaning some think they could play there, while others think they will have to move, or only be average at best. Opinions vary too much to get a good feel without seeing them

      • Thanks. Initially I was confused by taking 3 SS and a 3b, with 4 premium picks the last two years. But considering how bereft the system and MLB in general is, I can see the logic in “stacking” infielders on the left side. Hopefully they hit on at least two. And develop some power too…also made Jacoby Jones a trade chip.

  • Even if his season ends now 329 plate appearances at full season ball is pretty good for a kid that was 18 for most of it.

  • I read the article but what didn’t I comprehend about the explanation?

    • Yeah, I agree, there’s still no real explanation in this article other than what Tim has already said a few times before over the past week

      • We have been asked daily about, some days multiple times over the last 7-8 days, even with notes in three of his game reports(Prospect Watch). So here is the article so everyone can see that he asked twice about it and this is what they said and there hasn’t been an update since.

        • Huh?

          • Not sure what you are questioning. They both said there was no explanation, so I told them why this article was written. There have been between 10-15 questions from people asking about Cole Tucker, and those are just the ones I know of. Tim wrote about it in the Prospect Watch three different times and we answered each question, but we are still getting questions about it. Now everyone can see everything we know about the situation. If anyone else asks in the next couple days, they will be directed to this article.

  • For a guy whose first round pick status almost caused mass suicides among readers here, he sure looks like a keeper.

  • Awesome guy. Hopefully he’ll get past this injury quickly and get back to playing ball. When I saw him here at Pirate City last season he had jammed his thumb fielding a fly ball and I got to talk to him a bit as well. 100% genuinely great kid and I hope he has a full and successful career ahead of him.

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