Baseball fans tend to root for scrappy ballplayers because they tend to be the easiest for an average person to identify with. That being the case, Jonathan Tucker should be a fan favorite for years to come. The 23 year old has no raw tools that grade out above average, but he has made an impression with the Orioles organization since being drafted in the 20th round of the 2004 draft.
DOB: 7/02/83 Height: 5-7 Weight: 167 B/T: S/R
Jonathan Tucker's age 23 season:
When Jonathan Tucker walks onto baseball diamond against other professional athletes, it is a rare occurrence that he is not the least imposing figure on the field. Indeed, what has made him a success since being drafted is an ability to do all the small things right. Coaches and those within the organization rave about his work ethic and maturity as a player.
Tucker's main offensive weapon has been an impressive ability to get on base. While his excellent plate discipline should allow him to achieve similar success at higher levels without many adjustments, he is unlikely to carry such a substantial walk rate forward. As Tucker moves up through the system, pitchers will be more apt to challenge him since Tucker is not an imposing power threat. He does recognize breaking pitches well for a player in the Sally League and a .280ish average should be sustainable in the long run.
Tucker has good bat control, displaying the ability to bunt and make productive outs that will certainly keep him in Sam Perlozzo's favor. He is also a good base runner, at least in the station-to-station sense. Among the few little things that Tucker did not do well in 2006 was steal bases, as he was successful in less than 50% of his attempts. He is an average runner and his coaches remain confident that he'll make the necessary adjustments in time.
The switch-hitting Tucker also took advantage of an opportunity to display his talents in the newly re-formed Hawaiian Winter League. He hit .266/.344/.329 in the pitching-friendly atmosphere and, once again, drew as many walks as strikeouts (10). Throughout the year, Tucker was a much better hitter batting right-handed. At Delmarva, he posted an .849 OPS against southpaws.
Tucker played all over the field in 2006. Mostly a second baseman in Delmarva, he also saw significant time in left field. After moving up to Frederick late in the season, he actually saw most of his innings at shortstop, but managed to get in at every other infield position as well. At every position, Tucker is extremely reliable, posting only four errors the entire year. However, his physical range is only average, whether in the middle infield or in the outfield. Tucker's throwing arm isn't very strong, but he makes up for it by being extremely accurate. His defensive profile is certainly more than enough for a player that doesn't figure to play every day at the highest level.
While he is behind the ideal age curve at this point, Tucker has a ceiling similar to the comparably built pre-2005 incarnation of Brian Roberts, although he lacks Roberts' top of the line speed and defensive range. More likely, Tucker will end up as a utility player, though he could be a particularly valuable one. He'll start 2007 in Frederick, but he could see significant action in Bowie if he adjusts as quickly as he should. If he does, an interesting predicament might be getting him enough at bats, since Paco Figueroa profiles as a similar player and has also split time between second base and the outfield.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com