Kyle Tucker blazing his own trail with Buies Creek Astros

The No. 2 player in the Astros system looking to emerge from his brothers shadow on Buies Creeks temporary minor league team

Will Bratton—Campbell Athletics
Kyle Tucker of the Buies Creek Astros runs onto the field at Jim Perry Stadium. Tucker is the No. 2 prospect in the Houston Astros system.

BUIES CREEK — The Astros Single-A Advanced affiliate playing in Buies Creek is only a temporary fix for the next two seasons. Kyle Tucker, on the other hand, will likely only be in Buies Creek for an even shorter amount of time.Tucker, 20, is the Astros’ No. 2 overall prospect and top position player in the team’s entire system. He entered the season listed as the No. 19 prospect in Baseball America’s Top 100 list and ranks as the No. 6 outfielder after being drafted with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft straight out of H.B. Plant High School in Tampa, Fla.After playing nearly an entire season with the Quad Cities River Bandits in Davenport, Iowa, Buies Creek is a huge change for Tucker. But it certainly has its advantages for one of the Astros’ emerging young stars.”You can tell they’re excited for us to be here and we’re excited to have huge crowds come out,” Tucker said. “It’s been really unique because when we just go somewhere to eat like Chick-Fil-A or Subway even, we stand out. Fans just tell us how pumped they are for the season and how awesome it is to have us here.”You don’t get that from every small town you play in on the way up, but Buies Creek has been great to us.”Buies Creek isn’t only the home for a minor league club, it also happens to be off to one of the hottest starts in the country. The Astros lost just one of their first seven games, sweeping a four-game series to start the team’s two-year tenure at Campbell’s baseball field.Tucker has been a huge part of that success, hitting a home run and cranking out another three doubles for a .333/.368/.611 stat line to go along with his ridiculous 1.036 OPS before the first road trip. His swing and athleticism earned him comparisons to the likes of Christian Yelich and High Point native Wil Myers from Baseball America editor John Manuel.”He brings some pretty significant star power to Buies Creek,” Manuel said. “We’ve compared him to guys who are some of the elite young hitters in the game. That’s good company. I’m fairly certain he’s going to hit for high batting averages at the highest level. “Then you look at his body and his swing and you know there’s some untapped power that could come out this season. Long term, he’s just a rung below being the best hitter on a championship-caliber team. That’s lofty.”The path for Tucker might also be one that could result in a roster spot with Houston sooner rather than later. Currently, the Astros have emerging superstar George Springer alongside veterans Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki, two players who are likely stopgaps for the franchise as Tucker and fellow outfielder Derek Fisher rise through the system.Tucker and Fisher are also left-handed bats, something Houston’s current young core of Springer, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman don’t offer. That, along with his undeniable talent at the plate, puts Tucker on the fast track for an MLB spot in the coming years.”Simply put, the Astros stalwarts for the future that are currently on the roster are all right-handers,” Manuel said. “Houston added complimentary guys like Reddick, Aoki and Brian McCann that are left-handed hitters this offseason. As they continue to build for the future, Tucker is a huge part of that core for the future as a compliment to that lineup.”Unlike most young prospects making their way through the minor league baseball system, Tucker isn’t alone on his journey. Similar to the likes of Kyle and Corey Seager, two players from N.C., Tucker can share his experience with his brother Preston.So what makes their situation unique? Both are in the Astros system. Having a brother to lean on is one thing. Having one that can break things down every step of the way is something Kyle doesn’t take for granted.”I got to watch him go all the way through the minor leagues up to the big leagues, so I kind of know what to expect,” Kyle Tucker said. “Watching him play in this organization and knowing how they’ve treated him let’s me know this is where I need to be. I’ve actually never been on the same team as him, but playing on the Astros together would be a once in a lifetime experience.”Preston set career records with the Florida Gators for hits (341) and RBI (258) while finishing second in home runs (57) before being drafted in the seventh round by the ‘Stros in the 2012 draft. Kyle, on the other hand, was taken in the first round at 18 years old after winning the Baseball America High School Player of the Year in 2015.While Preston has had to prove himself as an undersized player at nearly every level, Kyle was blessed with a 6-foot-4 frame that he has yet to fully grow into two years removed from high school.”He’s had a target on his back for a while because of his brother,” Manuel said. “So he came in with high expectations, but has a lot of accolades for a guy his age. … It is a pretty interesting situation for both of them to have a brother in the same system. Preston wishes he had Kyle’s body, because if he was 6-foot-4, he might be the Astros first baseman right now.”But I’ll say that having his brother drafted by the Astros was really important for Preston. Having him drafted that high was a great part of Preston’s career, too.”Regardless of the size advantage or where he was drafted, Kyle said he still gets ripped on by his brother.”He’s still my big brother, so he gives me a hard time about a lot of things,” Kyle said with a laugh. “Last year, I only hit nine home runs, so he never let me hear the end of it. He’s like, ‘C’mon, man! Nine home runs? That’s nothing.’ But he can say that when he’s hit home runs at the big league level.”Kyle will get there soon enough and does have a chance to join Preston if they both stay in the Astros system. With an estimated arrival date of 2019 in Houston by Baseball America, the time is coming for Kyle Tucker in the near future. For now, fans in Buies Creek not only get to enjoy minor league baseball, but one of the best players Houston’s organization has to offer. Both will be gone soon, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy either while they last.