There might not be another player battle we write that’s as close as this one. On both our regular Top 100 and our fantasy Top 100, Alex Kirilloff and Kyle Tucker are back to back, both inside the top 15. These are two elite outfielders with very similar tools, but different trajectories in the public’s eye right now.
If Minor League Baseball awarded a Comeback Player of the Year award, Kirilloff would have won in a landslide. He slashed .348/.392/.578 as he split his season evenly between the Midwest League and the Florida State League in his return season after Tommy John surgery. If you can believe it, Kyle Tucker had an even better year in Triple-A (yeah, yeah, PCL) hitting .332/.400/.590 with 27 HR and 20 SB. But despite his great numbers in Fresno, people soured after his 28-game cup of coffee with the Astros after he posted a .615 OPS.
So where do each of our writers stand now? Let’s dive in.
Both Kirilloff and Tucker portend to be fantasy studs. In our fantasy top 100, we predicted a Peak Projection of .310/.375/.540 with 30 home runs for Kirilloff. For Tucker, an extremely similar .290/.370/.530 with 25 home runs. The one big difference? The steals. It was 20 to 5 in Tucker’s favor. And when you’re splitting hairs between elite players, being dramatically better in one category is the difference maker. Steals have stagnated in fantasy. Thus, if you have someone who can hit for average, hit for power and steal, you become fantasy gold. Just 10 players accomplished 20-20 last season and seven of them are inside the top 20 NFBC ADP. Tucker’s MLB appearance was disappointing but it came with a .176 BABIP. He struck out at just an 18 percent clip and walked at a league average rate.
I love me some Kirilloff, and I think he’s slightly less risky than Tucker thanks to his elite bat. But if I have to sacrifice 5-7 home runs to gain 15 steals and stay similar in the slash line, give me Kyle Tucker. -Eddy Almaguer
Alex Kirilloff was the best hitter not named Vlad that I saw last year. Kirilloff has an advanced approach with elite barrel control. This allows him to hit any pitch in any location which translates against major league pitching. While he didn’t flash pullside power in High A, he showed an uncanny ability to use the entire field, which led to 71 extra base hits. I graded Kirilloff’s hit tool and power a future 70/60 which projects as a .300+ avg. with 25-30 HR. At present, his game power is geared toward doubles, but he has flashed plus power to the opposite field.
Tucker, on the other hand, has put up some gaudy numbers before struggling in his MLB debut last season. He has flashed plus power and could develop into a 30 HR-20 SB threat. Ultimately, I think Tucker is a 55 hitter which puts him around a .260-.270 average and the hit tool could eat into game power early into his career. Furthermore, Tucker doesn’t have great foot speed so I expect the SB to disappear in the big leagues. While Tucker is certainly closer to the big leagues, Kirilloff will close that gap in 2019. His hit tool is that good. So give me Kirilloff, who I ranked as the 5th best prospect in baseball in my Top 100. - Jason Woodell
I had the pleasure of seeing Kirilloff in person in Kane County, and I instantly fell in love. The left-handed swing is as beautiful as it is quiet, and I believe in the hit tool as much as Jason does. I saw Kirilloff facing some funky lefties in Kane County and he was just peppering the left fielder with line drives. This is the type of player that could get pushed aggressively through the system, but it would surprise me if the Twins went that route.
Tucker is MLB ready, and is the more fantasy friendly of the pair due to the stolen base upside, but while his hit tool may only be in the 55-60 range, Kirilloff’s is a 70 for me. Also, the glut of MLB-ready players at the Astros disposal and their World Series aspirations mean it could be difficult for Tucker to grab that everyday role if he has another rough stint in Houston.
Ultimately it’s splitting hairs, but I lean Kirilloff ever so slightly due to the potential 70-hit, 60-power pairing. - Matt Thompson
Not since the day God summoned Abraham to sacrifice Isaac has a man been so conflicted. I stand before you today struggling to make up my mind between our two subjects, Alex Kirilloff and Kyle Tucker. At the moment the momentum certainly seems to be swinging in Kirilloff’s favor. Is this in fact due to Kirilloff being the superior talent, or is it the blowback from the uncertainty of Tucker’s 2019 MLB role, and poor showing in limited time with Houston? Let’s look at each.
Kirilloff combines one of the best hit tools in the minors, with natural strength and the potential for plus power. His all fields approach, quick strong hands, and ability to make contact with pitches almost anywhere gives him the rare high floor for an A Ball power hitter. Though perhaps tagging Kirilloff as a power hitter is incorrect because he’s more than that. He shows all-field ability with oppo% of 36.5% and 33.3% in 65 games at each level. Additionally he puts the ball in the air 60 percent of the time, making lots of hard contact, displayed by an elite 29.5% line drive rate during his stint in high-A. All this to say Kirilloff can hit. But what about Tucker, he’s surely not just chopped liver, right?
No, in fact for fantasy I’m taking Tucker, and here’s why. First let’s throw the proximity argument out the window. Even if Tucker is a year or two ahead, it’s a small difference in a big picture sense. So why Tucker over Kirilloff? Simple, overall offensive output. Tucker will likely never have a batting average higher than Kirilloff’s but I feel safe saying it could be within 10-30 points annually, while posting higher walk rates, equal power, and more steals. A .280/.370/.530 20/20 Tucker is a very valuable player in a variety of formats. So while I think Kirilloff is the better hitter, Tucker still presents a nice combination of hit, on base ability, power, and speed, leading me to believe Tucker’s peak season will be better than Kirilloff’s. Verdict: Tucker - Ralph Lifshitz