Kyle Tucker didn’t make the American Family Insurance ALL-USA preseason baseball team but he has muscled his way into contention for the ALL-USA postseason team, leading Plant (Tampa) to a 16-8 record. He hit .494 with 10 homers, 27 RBI, 29 runs and 10 stolen bases and had an on-base percentage of .964. Until the regular season American Family Insurance ALL-USA baseball team comes out in June, we’re looking at players who deserve consideration.
Name: Kyle Tucker
School: Plant, Tampa
Height, weight: 6-4, 190
Baseball future: The senior center fielder has signed with Florida but is considered a potential first-round draft choice. His older brother Preston, who played at Plant and Florida, was called up to the Houston Astros last week as a left fielder after leading the minors with 10 homers this season.
Baseball scouts may have whiffed their judgments on Preston when he was at Plant, but they weren’t sleeping on Kyle.
“When he was a sophomore, they called him Ted Williams,” said Plant coach Dennis Braun, chuckling. “Boy, there’s nowhere to go but down from that. They throw out so many names of I can’t keep track of them. All I know is Kyle, like his brother, can hit. You can’t teach putting the barrel on the ball and that’s the quality everybody is looking for.”
Kyle and the rest of his family flew out to Anaheim with little notice last week for Preston’s major league debut with the Astros.
“That was really cool,” Kyle said. “He got the call Wednesday. He called us about an hour later after he made his arrangements. My parents were right on the computer, booking a flight for the next day and we left the next morning. It was kind of hectic, getting the flights. It was worth it, getting to see him play on a major league field. You don’t really expect to play with those big names and then all of a sudden, he’s on the field playing with them.”
Preston is nearly seven years older than Kyle and a natural lefty. Because Kyle grew up watching his brother play, he began hitting from the left side even though he throws right-handed. Kyle hit 31 career homers at Plant, breaking his brother’s record of 29.
“I didn’t talk to him about that,” Kyle said. “He’s in the middle of the season and I didn’t want to distract him. I’ll tell him (about the record) once he gets used to playing for Houston.”
Kyle didn’t play in a lot of summer showcases and wasn’t high in a lot of mock drafts, until he continued to bang out hits early in the season.
“There were times there were four or five front-office guys who showed up at our field and over the season, we saw 60 to 80 scouts,” Braun said. “For whatever reason, when they showed up, he did something great.”
“I keep to my own game,” Kyle said. “I don’t try to overdo anything and show off. You have to treat scouts like they’re just fans. Sometimes when you’re standing in the outfield or dugout, you’ll notice them, but not when you’re at bat.”
Plant plays in one of the most competitive districts in the state and several pitchers were willing to challenge Kyle, though few threw him fastballs.
“I tried to look for specific pitches in certain counts,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get any fastballs, at least none down the middle. If they were going to walk me, I would let them.”
“Kyle never goes out of the zone,” Braun said. “Very rarely will you see him chase a bad pitch. That’s why he had 25 walks. They pitched to him cautiously and a lot of kids get frustrated with that but I was pretty impressed he was able to stay in the zone. He looks like a pro out there and makes it look easy.”
It is possible Kyle and Preston could eventually play in the same outfield as the Astros have two first-round selections in the June draft, at No. 2 and No. 5.
“That would be special,” Kyle said. “Because of our age difference, we’ve never been on the same team, except when we played in the backyard with the Whiffle ball and those games got kind of intense.”