How good can San Diego Padres’ rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. be at the major league level?
Before you click off this article and bombard my mentions on twitter, I’d like to say this: Fernando Tatis Jr. is already an extremely talented baseball player.
While that is really obvious, what he’s doing at such a young age is beyond impressive. At 20 years old, Tatis is currently slashing .338/.392/.626 with eight home runs, 20 RBI’s, and eight stolen bases. He’s played gold-glove caliber defense at shortstop on a nightly basis, is a menace on the basepaths, and is the best player on a Padres team with names like Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer. His impact on this team is undeniable, as his return to the lineup after almost a month hiatus was the spark the Padres’ offensive desperately needed.
While his numbers are astronomically great and he should be the leading candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, Tatis’ impact in 2019 does not matter much for the team’s future. The Padres are not in contention for a World Series ring this year, but as the team inches closer to contention, Tatis is certainly going to be the centerpiece moving forward. How he performs over the next three to four years will either increase or decrease San Diego’s chance at winning their first championship in franchise history.
That’s what I’m going to attempt to do in this article. By using my own evaluation and projection tools, I’m going to predict just how good Fernando Tatis Jr. can really be. Is he going to be one of the best players in baseball one day, or will he be a Trevor Story-type of a player throughout his career?
Most major league scouts use a 20-80 scale, with 20 being very poor and 80 being an elite talent. Anything above 55 on the scale is usually considered to be above-average. The charts below come from FanGraphs. This chart explains what type of player should result based on the grades given to them.
|Hitter||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher||WAR|
|80||Top 1-2||#1 Starter||—-||7.0|
|55||Above Avg||#3/4||Mid Closer||2.5|
|50||Avg Regular||#4||Low CL/High SU||2.0|
|40||Bench||Swing/Spot SP||Middle RP||1.0|
|35||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||0.0|
This chart explains the tool grades and what they should translate to the major league level. As you can see, an 80-grade hit tool would result in one of the best hitters in baseball, where a 45-grade hit tool is a below average hitter.
|Tool Is Called||Fastball Velo||Batting Avg||Homers||RHH to 1B||LHH to 1B||60 Yd Run|
While these grades are not always 100% accurate, as nothing in baseball is, a player that consistently receives the same grades from different scouts is likely to become that type of player. As for Tatis, here are the grades given to him by Baseball Prospectus.
Hit: 60 Power: 60 Run/Speed: 50 Glove: 60 Arm: 60
The Baseball Prospectus team is high on Tatis, giving him plus grades on every tool but his speed (I don’t know how), and they believe he will eventually be an above-average player at the big league level.
Down below are my grades on Fernando Tatis Jr. and what I think he can eventually become once he fully matures and reaches his prime. Keep in mind, these are not based on his sole performances right now, but they are projected over a long period.
Hit: 70 Power: 60 Run/Speed: 75 Glove: 65 Arm: 65
As you can see, my individual grades suggest that I believe Fernando Tatis Jr. is going to be one of the best players in baseball some day.
Let’s start with his hit tool. He already has above-average big league bat speed as a 20-year-old and has a refined approach at the plate for how young he is. His barrel stays in the zone for a long time, and he gets great extension on his swing, allowing him to drive the ball from gap-to-gap on a consistent basis. Tatis is aggressive at the plate, which is why he’s striking out at a 27.5% clip, but he’s still only 20 years old and is talented enough to make adjustments as he continues to see major league pitching. All of his hitting abilities are advanced for his age and for a player of his talent, Tatis is only going to get better as he matures.
As for his power, Tatis has pure power due to his 6-foot-3 frame and the pure explosiveness in his swing. He makes hard contact with the baseball, 43.9% of the time to be exact, and sprays the ball to all parts of the field. There’s certainly potential for him to be a 30+ home run hitter on an annual basis in his prime, but because of how high I am on his pure hit tool, I see him being more of a 23-25 home run hitter as his career continues. His unique ability to hit for both contact and power at a high level give Tatis one of the highest offensive ceilings of a prospect in recent memory.
Tatis is much more advanced defensively than scouts seem to give him credit for. His arm is above the major league average, and he’s hit 90+ mph on the radar gun several times across the infield. With the glove, he’s exceeded expectations and has looked like a borderline gold glove candidate at shortstop all season. Tatis was amongst the league leaders in defensive runs saved at shortstop before his injury, and while he doesn’t qualify for the leaderboard right now due to his lack of innings played, he will almost certainly be near the top once he does. His smooth hands, reaction time, and ability to get to almost every single ball in his vicinity give Tatis all the tools to be an elite defender at shortstop moving forward.
His run tool is the one I personally believe scouts missed the most. The majority of most scouting websites and services grade his run tool either a 50 or a 55, which would make him an average to an above-average runner. However, based on what we’ve seen so far, this grade appears to be selling his running abilities a little short. He’s in the 95th percentile in all major league baseball in sprint speed, which is well above average and is 9-for-11 in stolen base opportunities. Not only does he have pure speed, but his instincts on the basepaths are also incredible. We’ve seen Tatis manufacture runs for the Padres by himself several times in 2019 and he’s scored from both second and third base on infield singles already this season. There is no question that he is already an above-average runner at the major league level.
Based on my evaluation, Fernando Tatis Jr. has superstar written all over him. His rare five-tool mix is one of the more unique skill sets in all of major league baseball. There is a legitimate chance that, once he reaches his peak, Fernando Tatis Jr. could be one of the best players in major league baseball and one of the best players of his generation.