Fernando Tatis Interview: Son of Big Leaguer Already Impressing at 18

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Credit: Journal Gazette

Growing up around clubhouses with his big leaguer, father Fernando Tatis II, Fernando Tatis III — aka Fernando Tatis Jr. or Fernando Gabriel (Medina) Tatis — soaked up as much baseball as he could.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder is now showing off his knowledge and ability as an infielder with the Fort Wayne TinCaps in the San Diego Padres system.

Just 18, the younger Tatis went into play Monday, July 31, leading the Low Class-A Midwest League in games played (100) and was third in home runs (17) while also pacing the team in runs batted in (57) and OPS (.864).

Swinging from the right side, Tatis III was hitting .271 (.286, 6 HR, 20 RBI vs. left-handers; .264, 11 HR, 37 RBI vs. right-handers) with 111 strikeouts in 373 at-bats. The swift teen had also amassed team-high 25 stolen bases in 36 attempts.

Playing mostly at shortstop with a few appearances at second base and third base, the mid-season 2017 MWL All-Star and two-time league player of the week committed 23 errors in 374 total chances.

Signed by the Chicago White Sox at 16, Tatis III was acquired in 2016 by the Padres in the deal that sent James Shields to Chicago.

Last summer, he hit .273 with four home runs, 25 runs batted in, and 14 stolen bases in 55 games with 15 errors in 156 total chances.

For his career, he has started 126 games at shortstop, nine at second base, and five a third base.

Before Monday’s game played before another large crowd at Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field, Tatis and TinCaps assistant coach Jhonny Carvajal talked to EVT about the youngster’s progress and potential.

Like his father, Tatis III hails from San Pedro de Macoris, D.R. He wears No. 23 in honor of his dad (a 5-foot-10, 175-pound infielder who wore that number while with the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles) and because it represents the postal code of his home province.

Credit: MiLB

On Sunday, July 30, Adrian Beltre, 38, became the first Major League Baseball player born in the Dominican Republic to reach 3,000 career hits.

“That brings motivation to all the Dominican players,” said Fernando Tatis III. “Our land having a future Hall of Famer with 3,000 hits is amazing.”

His father is friends with Beltre, and the youngster has met the Cooperstown-bound third baseman.

“We only said ‘hi’ to each other,” said Tatis. “I’ve heard he’s a great human being, and he’s a very good player.”

Carvajal, a Venezuelan who played 11 seasons in the minor leagues with the Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos, Arizona Diamondbacks, and San Francisco Giants organizations plus seven seasons in Italy, is also a friend of Fernando Tatis II.

Carvajal looks at Fernando Tatis III and sees the same stance used by Fernando Tatis II.

“His father played third base and was a nice power hitter,” said Carvajal, who also has ball-playing sons. “I talked to him during spring training and said, ‘I’ve got your kid’ He said I know he’s in good hands because I know you, and we played this game for a long time.”

The youngest Fernando gives much credit to his father.

“Everything I know today, my dad taught it to me,” said Tatis III. “I came to the park every day seeing baseball, and here we are.”

“Ever since I can remember, my dad has been bringing me to the field. My dad trained me ever since I was 3.”

“I’m a little bit stronger and taller, but we are the same player.”

Tatis III is the oldest of five, born to Fernando and Maria. The other boys are Joshua, Elijah, and Daniel. Maria is the girl.

Tatis II made his pro debut at age 19 and played in his first MLB game at 22. While only time will tell Tatis III’s future, Carvajal likes what he sees.

“For me, he’s going to be better than his dad,” said Carvajal. “He’s only 18 years old with 10 more pounds, and you see where he’s at.

“I always expect something good every AB with him. He’s a good hitter.”

“When he really wants to compete, he’s a strong guy. He’s got a strong mind when he’s hitting. The ability he has is amazing. He’s going to learn and be a better hitter. He’s still young and learning. He’s going to be a superstar.”

How does the Padres prospect classify his offensive game?

“I’m a gap-to-gap hitter,” said Tatis III, who participated in the home run derby at the 2017 MWL All-Star Game. “I can also bunt when the team needs it. Sometimes I get lucky and hit it out of the park.”

Credit: Journal Gazette

He does get caught up in bat angles and exit velocity.

“I just go to the plate and try to see a good pitch and hit the ball hard,” said Tatis III. “I’m 18, and I’m still learning how to hit. I think I’m going to become a better hitter in the future. I’m not worried about (swings and misses). I’m just worried about playing baseball.”

Fort Wayne roster sports five 18-year-olds — Tatis, infielders Hudson Potts and Reinaldo Ilarraza, outfielder Jack Suwinski and left-handed pitcher Adrian Morejon. The average age in the MWL is 21.

“I really don’t pay attention to (being so young),” said Tatis III. “Me and my teammates are here, and we play together as a team. We just play some baseball — no matter what age.”

Carvajal, who shares duties in teaching the team’s infielders and outfielders with Fort Wayne manager Anthony Contreras, sizes up Tatis III as a defender.

“He is a good shortstop,” said Carvajal. “There’s a couple of details he needs to work on so he can be consistent. He needs to be ready for everything.”

“But he’s doing a lot of good things right now.”

Growing up on youth teams in the D.R., Tatis III split his time between shortstop and center field.

“My dad taught me how to play everywhere,” said Tatis III. “I can play center field, first base, third base, anywhere.”

This summer marks the most baseball the teen sensation has played in one season. How does he cope with the grind?

“I have to be smart with the workouts and with my food, and I also get treatment on myself,” said Tatis III.

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