How high can (and, in a more philosophical universe, should) a “bad body” first baseman with unconventional swing mechanics rise up draft boards? The case for Florida JR 1B Preston Tucker’s bat is strong; as a hitter, he is as close to big league ready as any player in the 2011 MLB Draft with plus present power and impeccable plate discipline. He’s also been praised for his crazy high baseball IQ (“crazy high” = technical scouting terminology) and tremendous strength in his forearms, wrists, and hands. Of course, no scouting report on Tucker can be written without mentioning that body. Tucker won’t help whatever team drafts him “sell any jeans,” but he could help them win some ballgames, bad body and all.
In fairness to Tucker, his “bad body” is more about a height deficiency (generous listed at 6-0) than a weight surplus, so the typical concerns that follow less than ideally fit prospects aren’t warranted. In any case, I don’t care much about the “bad body,” especially when weighed against the practical plusses that come with his awesome wrist and hand strength. The unconventional swing mechanics also don’t bother me. If it works, and if it is projected to work going forward, stick with it. Plus power and plate discipline are an easy recipe for a high prospect ranking on this site, but I keep coming back to my general aversion to first base prospects. To be an above-average first baseman in the bigs, you either need to have a special bat, outrageously good defense, or a well above-average mixture of the two. To that end, I’m not sure Tucker, or any other college first baseman in this class, is a prospect that will wind up receiving a first round grade, from me personally or any of the thirty big league scouting departments. He does have a chance to be a big league contributor, with the ceiling of an upper echelon second division (lots of qualifiers, I know) starting first baseman.
Then again, I could be wrong in this assessment. Wouldn’t be the first time, right? There is some precedent for a player of Tucker’s skill set and body type going in the first round. In 2008, both Brett Wallace and David Cooper rode the wave of undeniably great college production and plus lefthanded power to become first rounders despite less than ideal body types. Late first round seems like his draft ceiling. Fifth round, like fellow SEC 1B Andy Wilkins in 2010, could be his floor, barring injury.