A few seasons ago, the San Diego Padres found themselves with a big dilemma. After going all in during the 2015 off season, the Padres decimated a talented farm system in order to put themselves in “win now” mode. This proved to be a mistake, as the Padres have not won more than 77 games since 2011 and were forced to pay huge amounts of money to players that were simply under-producing.
After realizing that their plan had not worked, Padres G.M. A.J. Preller began a massive tear down, trading all of these added pieces to opposing teams in an attempt to rebuild a broken down farm system with talent he coveted.
One of the first moves Preller made was to trade James Shields, a right-handed pitcher that was signed to a massive contract after he was the ace of a Royals’ pitching staff that had come up one game short in the World Series. “Big Game James”, as he was called, never really produced for the Padres and the team was desperate to get rid of his contract.
On June 4th, 2016, the Padres sent Shields to the Chicago White Sox for Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis Jr. While Johnson was a serviceable pitcher, he never had success with the Padres and was not the centerpiece of this trade.
Who was? Fernando Tatis Jr. of course.
The son of 11-year MLB veteran Fernando Tatis, the young Dominican shortstop was not even ranked inside the White Sox top 30 prospects at the time of the trade. A.J. Preller was taking a shot in the dark with a young, unproven prospect. Many scouts were not sure if Tatis Jr. would ever develop into something.
Man, were they all wrong.
In his first full season with the Padres, one could argue that Tatis Jr. was the best player in the Friars’ farm system last season. At only 18 years old, he blasted 22 home runs last season, drove in 75 runs, and posted a .278/.379/.498 batting line in 486 at bats with the Fort Wayne TinCaps. He has a great frame for a young player, standing at 6′ 3″, and could potentially grow more. Tatis Jr. matches his big frame with great athleticism, swiping 32 bases and showcasing excellent range, with an above average arm. The Padres promoted Tatis Jr. to Double-A San Antonio in to get him some playoff experience, as he was the youngest player in the league. He helped the Missions compete for a Texas League title, though they did come up short.
If you’re a Padres fan, you know that Fernando Tatis Jr. has a ton of hype around him and, in Padres fandom, is considered to be the future franchise player of the team. But from a realistic point of view, how good can he really be?
Let’s check it out.
For starters, Fernando Tatis Jr. is a phenomenal hitter. For his age, he fully understands how to use the entire field so well and has shown that he can hit for both power and contact. The TinCaps spread Tatis Jr. throughout the lineup all season and there is reason to believe that he could bat first through fourth in the order and still have success. He is going to be an above-average hitter throughout his entire career and you can only imagine that his power is going to develop more as he gains experience. Plate discipline should not be a concern, as Tatis Jr. does not typically chase pitches out of the zone and his pitch selection is incredibly advanced for an 18-year-old player.
Defensively, Tatis Jr. can hold his own and should be able to stay at shortstop, although the Padres should have the flexibility to move him to third base if they need to. His speed is something that surprised me, as he can really move on the base paths, and with that big frame of his, his speed can become lethal both offensively and defensively.
To me, Tatis Jr. has the ceiling of a player like Carlos Correa. Like Correa, Tatis Jr. is a big framed shortstop that may move to third base and is an extremely advanced hitter for his age. Correa is an average defender, and ultimately I think Tatis Jr. can be better than him defensively. Both are extremely similar players and it’s hard to see that Tatis Jr. will not turn into Correa in some way.
Realistically speaking, there is a legitimate chance that Fernando Tatis Jr. will become a star. He has all the intangibles and the talent to be a legit player in this league. With him being so young, there is certainly room for him to polish his game more. We could see him at Petco Park as early as September call-ups of next season. If not, then 2019 should be a lock for him to be on the team. Get ready Padres fans, Fernando Tatis Jr. is looking like he will live up to the hype.
Diego works at Prep Baseball Report as an Area Scout in Illinois and Missouri. He graduated this spring with a Bachelor Degree in Communications and played four years of college baseball, logging nearly 50 innings of work in a relief role. Diego hopes to work in an MLB front office one day and has been a Padres fan since he was six years old.