Fernando Tatis Jr.
Fernando Gabriel Tatis Medina
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 175 lb.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is the son of Fernando Tatis. He was considered one of the top international prospects available when he signed his first professional contract with the Chicago White Sox on July 2, 2015 for a bonus of $700,000. He was a shortstop with a sweet swing at the time, although his longer-term position was still to be determined.
However, he had not yet played his first professional game when he was traded less than a year later to the San Diego Padres, alongside pitcher Erik Johnson in return for pitcher James Shields. He was considered the key to the deal for the Padres, given his significant upside, although he was yet not ranked among the Sox's top ten prospects at the time of the trade. He got his first taste of professional action that season with the AZL Padres, where he hit .273 in 43 games. He also played 12 games for the Tri-City Dust Devils of the Northwest League, hitting .273 as well. In his first full season in 2017, he moved up all the way to AA thanks to posting a .281/.390/.520 line in 117 games for the Fort Wayne Wizards of the Midwest League. That earned him a late-season promotion to the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League. There, in spite of being a full six years younger than the average player, he managed to hold his own, hitting .255 in 14 games. Between the two stops, he hit 27 doubles and 22 homers and drove in 75 runs, securing his place among the top prospects in baseball. In his first two minor league seasons, he played mainly shortstop, with occasional appearances at second and third base.
He was invited to spring training by the Padres in 2018 and was the subject of a lot of hype, one article even identifying him as the player on the team most likely to make the Hall of Fame! He was named to the World team for the 2018 Futures Game. Shortly after appearing in the game, however, he saw his season end prematurely in mid July when he fractured his left thumb sliding into a base. He was hitting .286/.355/.507 in 88 games with the AA San Antonio Missions. It was all the more remarkable given that at 19, he was one of the youngest players in the league, and that he had compiled those numbers in spite of hitting just .177 in April.
He was back in spring training in 2019 and made it hard for the team to take a decision about his immediate future as he was very impressive in the Cactus League. Logic dictated that he should go back to the minors for at least a few weeks, to gain the Padres an extra year of arbitration control and allow Tatis a bit more seasoning in the minors given he had only a half season of AA ball under his belt, but it was still not a foregone conclusion with Opening Day only a few days away. Indeed, on March 26th, the Padres announced that he had made the team and was slated to be the starting shortstop, with another top prospect, 21-year-old Luis Urias, who was battling him for the job, being sent down to the minors at least for the time being. That made him the youngest player in team history to play on Opening Day when he god the nod on March 28th against the San Francisco Giants. He got his big league career off to a good start by going 2 for 3 in a 2-0 win. He hit his first career homer on April 1st, off Merrill Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ironically, although he was a decade older than Fernando, Kelly was making his major league debut in that game. He hit 4 homers in his first 16 games, including a second off Kelly on April 13th. On April 28th, however, he had to leave a game against the Washington Nationals after injuring himself while catching a relay throw at second base. He tried to stretch like a first baseman normally would, doing almost a full split, and pulled a hamstring. He went on the injured list and only returned on June 6th, having missed 34 games. He quickly showed he was back to where he was before the injury, as on June 7th, he went 3 for 4 with a homer, 2 runs, 2 RBIs and a stolen base to lead the Padres to a 5-4 win over the Washington Nationals. However, on August 16th, it was announced that he was returning to the injured list, but that his season was likely over due to a back injury. He was batting .317 with 13 doubles, 22 homers and 53 RBIs in 84 games.
While Tatis's rookie season was generally an outstanding one and landed him on the 2019 Topps All-Star Rookie Team, one point of concern was his defense, which was clearly below average. In fact, it was one of the worst for starting infielders in the majors according to some metrics. He led the majors in throwing errors and made more misplays on routine plays per inning than anyone else. That was in spite of his high athleticism and ability to make highlight reel plays. No one was talking about his defensive play in the first few weeks of the delayed 2020 season, however, as he was one of the most dangerous hitters in the majors. He played his 100th career game on August 9th and hit his 30th home run, giving him 6 long balls in his last 6 games. No shortstop had ever hit that many homers in his first 100 games. At 21 years of age, he was leading the National League in homers with 8, and tied with Aaron Judge for the major league lead. He was not a one-trick pony either, as he was batting .333 and his OBP was at .417, and was leading all major league players for WAR. On August 17th, he hit his first career grand slam, although it came with a measure of controversy. He came up in the 8th inning with the Padres holding a 10-3 lead over the Texas Rangers. With a 3-0 count, he blasted a pitch from Juan Nicasio over the fence; the controversy was that manager Jayce Tingler had given him the "take" sign and he swung away anyway, breaking one baseball's many unwritten rules that one shouldn't swing on a 3-0 pitch with a large lead. Indeed, Ian Gibaut, who replaced Nicasio after the hit, then threw his first pitch behind Manny Machado's head, in retaliation. In any case, it was his second long ball of the game, giving a major league-leading 11 homers. Most observers came out to defend Tatis, stating that the supposed rule he had broken was completely outdated, and that his prowess with the bat should be celebrated, not condemned. He was named the National League Player of the Month for August, as he hit .313 with 11 homers and 24 RBIs. He finished the year at .277 in 59 games, with 17 homers and 45 RBIs and was named the winner of the Silver Slugger Award as the best hitting shortstop in the league. The Padres made it to the postseason and in Game 2 the Wild Card Series on October 1st against the St. Louis Cardinals, he hit two homers and drove in five runs in an 11-9 win. In that game, Wil Myers also hit two homers, making them the first pair of teammates with multiple-homers in a postseason game since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig had done so in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, the game that featured Ruth's famous called shot. Overall, he went 7-for-22 (.318) in five postseason games.
In 2021, he received a significant honor before the season began, as he was selected to be featured on card #1 of that season's Topps set. He was also selected to be on the cover of the popular video game "MLB: The Show '21". On February 17th, he was honored in a different manner as the Padres signed him to an unprecedented fourteen-year deal worth $340 million, the third-largest contrat in major league history behind those of only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, also hooked for the long run to teams in southern California. In only his fifth game of the season, facing the San Francisco Giants on April 5th, he crumpled to the ground after striking out against, victim of a shoulder injury. The Padres placed him on the injured list the next day, but reassured fans that the injury was only minor despite its being dramatic and that further exams revealed a small labrum tear. He was at his best after he came back in May, when he was named the National League Player of the Month after hitting 9 homers, stealing 8 bases, batting .353 and slugging .824, with 26 RBIs in 20 games. On June 25th, he had the first three-homer game of his career, hitting all three in the first four innings, in an 11-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was voted a starter at the 2021 All-Star Game, then on July 24th hit his 30th homer of the season in just his 82nd game. No player younger than him had ever hit that many in so few games, and he also became the youngest player in Padres history to reach that total, beating out Gary Sheffield. On July 31st, he returned to the injured list with a recurrence of his partially dislocated shoulder, the result of an awkward slide into third base. When he was ready to return on August 15th, the Padres decided to move him to right to save some wear and tear on his body. In his first game back, he homered twice to lead the Friars to an 8-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He finished the season at .282 in 130 games, and led the NL with 42 homers in spite of the time missed. He also scored 99 runs and drove in 97 and was 25 for 29 in stolen base attempts. His OPS+ was an ourstanding 166 and he repeated as a winner of the Silver Slugger Award while finishing third in MVP voting. Defensively, he started 101 games at shortstop, and 23 in the outfield (16 in right field and 7 in center).
The Padres received some bad news when Tatis arrived in spring training in 2022, after its start had been delayed by a month by the 2021-2022 lockout. He had somehow broken his wrist during the off-season and would likely miss three months while also possibly requiring surgery. It seemed that the injury could have been caused by a motorbike-riding incident back in December that did not heal properly, occurring at a time when teams were prohibited from communicating with their players regarding health issues due to the ongoing labor conflict.
- 2019 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- NL All-Star (2021)
- 2-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2020 & 2021)
- NL Home Runs Leader (2021)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2019 & 2021)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2021)
- 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2021)
- AJ Cassavell: "Teen phenom Tatis goes deep in ST opener: Top prospect is youngest player in any big league camp", mlb.com, February 23, 2018. 
- AJ Cassavell: "Tatis Jr. to make Padres' roster (sources): Top prospect will be youngest player in club history to play on Opening Day", mlb.com, March 26, 2019. 
- AJ Cassavell: "Tatis quiets critics as All-MLB First Team SS", mlb.com, December 10, 2020. 
- AJ Cassavell: "14-yr. deal! Tatis in SD for long haul (sources)", mlb.com, February 17, 2021. 
- AJ Cassavell: "Tatis (shoulder) to IL; surgery not expected", mlb.com, April 6, 2021. 
- Thomas Harrigan: "Here's how Tatis has improved in Year 2", mlb.com, August 8, 2020. 
- Daniel Kramer: "Tatis Jr. makes his case for opening in Majors: 'I feel like I'm ready,' says baseball's No. 2 overall prospect", mlb.com, March 25, 2019. 
- Gabe Lacques: "At 21, Fernando Tatis Jr. already carries the 'Face of Baseball' label, even as MLB aims to diversify the field", USA Today, March 31, 2021. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Padres phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. has baseball awestruck: 'Haven’t seen a talent like that'", USA Today, April 16, 2019. 
- Bob Nightengale: "'Wow': Fernando Tatis Jr.'s $340 million deal with Padres sends shockwaves across MLB", USA Today, February 18, 2021. 
- Mike Petriello: "How can Tatís improve his defense in 2020? Minus-13 Outs Above Average was third-lowest in 2019", mlb.com, January 8, 2020. 
- Bernie Wilson (Associated Press): "Padres phenom Tatis Jr. born to play in the big leagues", March 2, 2018.