Baseball: Plant's Kyle Tucker, Jake Woodford sign



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Mon. June 15, 2015 | Kelly Parsons

Baseball: Plant's Kyle Tucker, Jake Woodford sign

On June 8, Plant became the first Tampa Bay area high school to have two players selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball first-year player's draft. One week later, the Panthers are no longer draftees, but professional baseball players. 

No. 5 overall pick Kyle Tucker — who tied Dwight Gooden for the highest selection for a Hillsborough County high schooler — and 39th pick Jake Woodford have signed with the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively, the clubs announced Monday. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo reported that Tucker signed for $4 million, the largest signing bonus ever for a Hillsborough County player. He topped fellow Astro Lance McCullers, who signed a $2.5 million deal in 2012.

Tucker (6-foot-5, 195 pounds) is the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year for the state and had been committed to play baseball at the University of Florida. His brother, Preston, a 2012 Florida graduate, also plays for the Houston Astros, and made his big-league debut May 7.

"I do think its a good fit. ... The fact that his brother is there, he'll be able to guide him along whether he's in the GSL, low A or high A, Preston has been to all these places," Plant coach Dennis Braun said. "It gives him some familiarity with what's going to happen and his surroundings."

Tucker, who would have been the third child in his family to attend the University of Florida, said before the draft that deciding between professional baseball and the Gators would be a tough choice. The potential to some day play with his brother, though, sweetened the deal for Tucker.

"Being able to play for the Astros soon, with my brother in the organization, I already know some of the people," he said on draft day. "Being able to hopefully play in the big leagues with him one day is something special for me."

Tucker garnered attention early in his career at Plant, hitting a team-leading .556 with nine home runs as a sophomore in 2013. From there, he only continued to stand out. Last season as a senior he hit .484 with 27 RBI and 10 home runs in 64 at-bats.

"Kyle Tucker was one of the premier bats of this year's draft class and has the ability to hit in the heart of our lineup in the future," Houston's director of amateur scouting Mike Elias told MLB.com. "He's a tall, strong, left-handed hitter with a great swing, a track record of success and plus power to both fields. He also runs well and is a polished outfielder. We're especially pleased to welcome him to our organization and we look forward to him playing alongside his older brother Preston in the major leagues."

Like Tucker, Woodford also had a standout career at Plant, posting a sub-1 ERA in his last three seasons. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-hander finished his senior season with a 7-0 record and 0.67 ERA, striking out 57 in 52 innings pitched. MLB.com's Jim Callis reported that Woodford's deal was worth $1.8 million, $215,000 more than the amount slotted for that pick.

And though Tucker and Woodford have moved on from the Plant program to bigger things, Braun knows the pair has left a lasting impact. 

"I think its a great thing for our program. It's a honor to have coached two kids to go in the first round," Braun said. "That's probably never going to happen again."

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