The Padres and the Tatis dilemma

Credit: Getty Images

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Not long after Major League Baseball announced the end of the shutdown, the San Diego Padres received the grim news that their $340-million-dollar man, Fernando Tatis Jr., would be out for approximately three months due to a fractured wrist.

Combine that injury with his chronic shoulder problems. Tatis Jr. can not be penciled in at short anytime soon. Obviously, no one can replace one of the most talented, exciting (albeit risk-taking) players in the game, but help can be found within the organization.

In fact, the Padres’ new manager Bob Melvin said, “It’s obviously a hit. But it gives somebody else an opportunity.” Until Tatis Jr. returns, the Padres have three in-house options: Ha-Seong Kim, Jake Cronenworth, and prospect CJ Abrams. Cronenworth and Kim covered short during Tatis Jr.’s multiple absences last year. However, Cronenworth is more valuable at second, and Kim would be the logical first choice.

Last year Kim actually outplayed Tatis Jr. defensively at short. Despite Tatis Jr.’s dramatic, acrobatic moves, his defense at short has been suspect–FanGraphs UZR/150UZR/150, 2019 -8, 2020 2.6, 2021 -7.1. On the other hand, Kim tightened up the defense substantially (UZR/150 10.6) while making multiple highlight-reel plays.

However, Kim’s hitting left much to be desired as he faced big-league pitchers for the first time (.202,/.270/.352 in 298 plate appearances). Power pitchers ate him alive at first, but he did improve over the course of the season. Undoubtedly, that year of experience will make Kim more comfortable at the plate. Also, he’s been working with one of the top hitters in Korea, Jung-Ho Kang, during the offseason. On his first day of spring training, Kim told reporters through an interpreter that “It’s 200 percent difference. I’m much more comfortable this year.”

Credit: USA Today Sports

The Padres also have insurance in the form of their top prospect, CJ Abrams (the Padres’ sixth pick overall in 2019 at $5.2 million). He will have an opportunity during the shortened spring training to make a splash. Like Tatis Jr., the 6-2, 185-pound Abrams has the advantage of athleticism and speed, as well as the ability to play multiple positions. Unlike Tatis Jr., he has emphasized his willingness to play wherever the team needs him.

According to Keith Law of “The Athletic,” Abrams ranks fifth on his list of top prospects, while MLB.com has him a slot lower at sixth. In 2019, Abrams played for two teams: Fort Wayne A ball where he batted .393/436/647/1.083 and in Arizona rookie league where he batted  .250/.333/.375/.708. In 2021 playing for Double-A San Antonio AA, the speedy left-hander had a slash line of .296/.363/.420/.782 and stole 13 bases. Overall he’s batted .343/.398/.529 in 348 plate appearances.

At every level, Abrams has been one of the younger players., and he’s considered a hard worker who is always striving to improve. Leg injuries (a fractured left tibia and sprained MCL in his knee) shortened his season in San Antonio, and a bruised shoulder in the Arizona Fall League curtailed his time in the batting cage. His father came to the rescue and installed a blow-up batting cage in his own backyard in Georgia.  Now that spring training has finally arrived, the Padres will have Abrams focus on shortstop, while he’ll also occasionally take reps at second and shag fly balls in the outfield.

In the larger picture, the Padres have to deal with the behavior of their superstar, a common problem for sports teams in general who depend upon a demographic (young males) prone to risk-taking behavior. Most teams include clauses in their contracts banning activities like riding motorcycles, and it appears that Tatis’ contract included that language. However, voiding his contract has not been considered as an option.

Tatis says he first felt his wrist flare up about a month ago. “Nothing crazy. I thought it was something we could work through,” he said. Obviously, it wasn’t. The latest reports indicate that Tatis still hasn’t made a decision on surgery.

According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Padres will move on and look to the future (while undoubtedly hoping that Tatis Jr. will stick to safer activities). In fact, new manager Bob Melvin recently announced that Tatis Jr.’ will not be riding his motorcycle anytime soon.


As far as we know, Tatis Jr. has not made an appointment to surgically repair his injured wrist. And what about his shoulder, which experienced four episodes of subluxation last season? Those questions will be answered as the San Diego Padres gear up for a shorter spring training with their new manager.

Fortunately, the San Diego Padres will not have to search far and wide for a shortstop as the team has three options–Ha-Seong Kim, Jake Cronenworth, and CJ Abrams in camp and ready to go.

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Diane Calkins
Baseball has been a part of Diane's life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.
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Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Void his contract, he is a problem every year. Free up some money for someone who cares about the team

Tony C
Tony C
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Voiding his contract gets us nothing. His upside is still high. Possibly still one of the top 5 in all of baseball. You don’t just say goodbye to that without getting a lot in return. Some team would pay dearly for the opportunity to smack some sense into him. We could get 4 top prospects from most teams for him.

Diane Calkins
Diane Calkins
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony C

Hi Tony,
I always appreciate your comments and agree about the contract. Tatis Jr. will have three very long months to think long and hard about the consequences of his behavior.
Diane

Diane Calkins
Diane Calkins
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Hi Doug,
I understand the frustration, but I think voiding his contract would be a huge mistake. This latest injury should act as a wakeup call for Tatis Jr. He has too much upside to give up on him.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
Diane

Brian Mahoney
Brian Mahoney
1 month ago

Read another article on the 300 million dollar boy. Grow up. Your the face of the franchise, for that matter one of a few in all of baseball. At this rate this might become one of the biggest busts in baseball history.

Diane Calkins
Diane Calkins
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Mahoney

Hi Brian,
Grow up says it all. The Padres definitely need the face of the franchise to have an attitude adjustment. Riding the pine for three long months just might sort him out. Let’s hope that he turns it around and doesn’t qualify as “one of the biggest busts in baseball history.”
Thanks for reading and commenting,
Diane

Tony C
Tony C
1 month ago

These are the problems we’ll have with a young selfish, arrogant kid. He puts himself above the team, fans, and fellow players. As excited as I was to sign him for his whole career, I wonder what that will look like. Are we going to get 100-120 per year for our money? I wish his dad and mom would step up and straighten him out. They seem to hold a lot of sway over him still. He is earning himself a “cannot depend on him” label. If the Padres brass are willing to spend money to try and contend with… Read more »

Diane Calkins
Diane Calkins
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony C

Hi Tony,
As always I appreciate your comments. I’m glad you mentioned his parents, as his father seems to be supportive of his irrational decisions. Also, it’s about time someone actually said the quiet part out loud, His actions do seem selfish and arrogant, and his dedication to the team is questionable.
Obviously, the best outcome for this mess would be for Tatis Jr. to get his head screwed on straight. In the meantime, I wouldn’t mind seeing Abrams at short (if he’s ready). That could be a real life wakeup call.
Diane

Alan Boas
Alan Boas
1 month ago

Tatis an exciting and talented player but over-zealous to a fault like Caminiti.
Riding a motorcycle is like Ryan Leaf playing tackle football in the park with no equipment. He now needs two surgeries!

Diane Calkins
Diane Calkins
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan Boas

Hi Alan,
Thanks for reading and commenting. As a huge Caminiti fan, I see some similarities between the two. However, Cami was such a complex, tortured soul (as we learned later), there are huge differences. It appears Tatis Jr. didn’t have much choice about the wrist surgery, but what about his shoulder?
There’s a bit of a soap opera quality to the whole thing.
Diane

Diane Calkins
Diane Calkins
2 months ago

I too am surprised he agreed to surgery on his wrist but not his shoulder. Perhaps the Padres put more pressure on him with this injury especially since it was caused by a motorcycle accident. They have leverage with that.

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