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Digging into Cole Tucker’s early-season struggles

The 25-year-old former first rounder is hitting only .187 in 13 games

MLB: Game One-Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 season has been a disappointment for Cole Tucker.

Gaining an opportunity with the Pittsburgh Pirates to see more consistent at-bats, Tucker has struggled mightily in 13 games at the plate and also seen trouble in the field.

Known more for his speed and defense coming up to the Major Leagues, the 2014 first-round pick has committed two errors in 23 innings at shortstop. Tucker has been better in the outfield despite his middle-infield background.

Tucker’s sample size at the plate is even more worrisome for his future with the big league club.

Tucker, 25, only has eight hits in 48 at-bats with only one extra-base hit - a triple - and striking out a staggering 20 times. He has not walked once to start the season and is slashing .167/.167/.208. Tucker’s OPS is .375.

Speed is one of the main positive factors in Tucker’s game, and he does bode an above-average sprint speed. However, Baseball Savant grades him as one of the worst in two major offensive categories.

Tucker is in the 31st percentile in max exit velocity, occasionally hitting the ball well but not sustaining his hard-hit rate.

In regards to outs above average, Tucker is at the very bottom. He is in the 3rd percentile with lower numbers signaling poor performances.

Tucker’s ground-ball percentage has consistently hovered around 50 percent for his entire four-year career.

The fastball has been Tucker’s biggest enemy at the plate, but breaking pitches are a close second and provide more lopsided numbers as well. He has seen the fastball almost 62 percent (126 total) and is hitting .185 against the heater with 10 strikeouts.

Breaking pitches are crushing the switch hitter in 57 offerings. Tucker is hitting .154 and owns a staggering 44.4 percent whiff percentage. He is slugging .154 against breaking balls and does not have a hit against offspeed balls through 21 pitches thrown.

Tucker has been misidentifying pitches and swung out of his shoes against a breaking pitch in game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader in Detroit, prompting the Tigers to poke fun at his relationship with superstar Vanessa Hudgens.

Tucker needs to improve his game at a rapid rate to be known more for his baseball abilities compared to his off-the-field celebrity. He’s not struggling due to a lack of effort or hustle but is not making solid enough contact to crack the starting lineup moving forward.

Once a highly-regarded prospect, Tucker is running out of time to make an impact on the Pirates with reinforcements on the way over the next year.

An energetic athlete and someone who seems to always be a positive person, especially with the fans, success in Pittsburgh would be well received by both ends.

However, it seems to be easier said than done, with Tucker needing to make a complete 180 at the plate to turn his misfortune into crushing the baseball.