The San Diego Padres are one of the best teams in baseball, and they have a lot to thank for that. One of their biggest contributors is rookie third baseman Fernando Tatis Jr., who has been making waves since his debut last year.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is enjoying a season that will go down in history. Even though he is still dealing with a lingering shoulder injury, the San Diego Padres’ young star is the overwhelming favorite to win the NL MVP and is on pace to lead his club to the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Tatis’ career hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows for the 22-year-old slugger.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is a below-average shortstop defensively.
There’s no denying that Tatis is one of baseball’s top three hitters (when he’s healthy). You can’t go wrong with Shohei Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Tatis as a trio.
Tatis’ performance on the field, though, has not been up to standard. In reality, it has consistently ranked towards the bottom of the league. This season, he has 20 errors, -7 defensive runs saved over average, and a.933 fielding percentage in 83 games at shortstop.
Tatis is tied for the most mistakes in baseball with Javier Baez, Bo Bichette, and Jose Urias. He also has the fourth-worst fielding percentage among MLB shortstops who have played at least 10 games.
If you’re the Padres, this isn’t great.
The Padres of San Diego had to make a choice.
The Padres can’t justify taking Tatis out of the lineup on a regular basis because of his defense. Even though he is baseball’s worst defensive shortstop, his hitting consistently leads San Diego to victory. Tatis demonstrated this point only a few nights after returning from the disabled list, hitting 4-5 with four RBIs and two home runs in an 8-2 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Tatis is the greatest hitter in the National League; keeping him out of the lineup because of his defense is ludicrous.
Watch this year’s NLDS see this batter, and find out why he is the greatest hitter despite his ludicrous defense.
Despite this, the Padres were still having trouble dealing with a black hole of mistakes at shortstop. San Diego wanted to find a method to move Tatis out of the infield, which is perhaps the most crucial position on the diamond, while still retaining him in their daily lineup. This is particularly true today, after the Padres’ trade deadline acquisition of second baseman Adam Frazier, which enables Jake Cronenworth to shift to shortstop full-time.
As a result, on August 15, Tatis was sent to right field for the first time in his career.
Tatis’ early findings are encouraging.
This isn’t to suggest that playing right field is simple, but it’s definitely easier for a club (like the Padres) to conceal a poor defender in one of the corner outfield spots rather than the infield. Tatis had three defensive opportunities against the Diamondbacks, and he took advantage of all three.
Tatis will be able to concentrate more on what he does best, which is hitting baseballs, by playing in the corner outfield position. Right and left fielders are often heavier than center fielders, giving them greater power at the bat. Tatis doesn’t need much more power (he’s already hit 33 home runs this season), but in Major League Baseball, every little bit matters.
Tatis has just touched the surface of the outfield transition. Still, if his performance versus Arizona is any indication of long-term success, the Padres should be pleased with their choice. Tatis is the NL MVP frontrunner and one of baseball’s best sluggers, so he’ll be on the field one way or another.
Baseball Reference provided all stats.