The San Diego Padres might very well have the most interesting team in baseball. Yeah, I didn’t think that I would be writing that sentence in my entire lifetime, yet here we are more than halfway through the wild 2019 season. What makes this such an interesting story is that the superstar that has been the exciting catalyst for this team, isn’t who you’d think. Even though the biggest story to come out of the Padres in the past year has been the grand signing of Manny Machado, we have seen some other big names pop up this year too. The Padres have continued to find success in this new era in the likes of Chris Paddack, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, and Kirby Yates. Every single one of these guys are having career years, but no one is having a more exciting one than 20-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr.
The addition of Tatis Jr. has really been what is driving this surge of exciting Padres baseball we have seen over the last 3 months. Yes, the Padres are a pretty stacked team this season, and yes I know Tatis Jr. was injured earlier as well. But it seems nearly every time he steps onto the field, something incredible is going to happen. There are very few other players that give you that feeling in the majors today.
For those who need to brush up a little bit on their baseball history, Tatis Jr. was traded to the Padres along with Erik Johnson for James Shields and some extra cash back in 2016. Anyone can take a look at James Shields’ stats post-2015 and see that by that point, he was nearing the end of his pitching career… So why the White Sox made this lop-sided trade beats me. This trade was an absolute steal for the Padres, no matter which way you look at it. Could you imagine a White Sox lineup with Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, AND Tatis Jr? That’s a scarily talented core.
Fast forward to today, Tatis Jr. is putting up scary similar numbers to Mike Trout’s rookie season when he was 20 years old. Both of their batting averages are practically identical at .326 versus .325, and Tatis Jr. has a slightly lower OPS+ hovering just under 160 compared to Trout’s 168. Not to mention that Tatis Jr. on-base % is just 7 points lower than Trout’s .399 clip back in 2012.
Here is the best part about the rookie sensation. He currently leads the majors in BABIP with at least 200 PA with an astonishing .430 mark. When he hits the ball, he’s getting on base. It’s easy to see this value in play when you look at his WAR that’s currently over the 3 mark and has been as high as 3.6 this season.
If Tatis Jr. can continue his pace, there is a decent chance he could reach some elite company too in the likes of Ted Williams, Mel Ott, A-Rod, and Trout as well. All those previous sluggers in their 20-year-old season ended their year with a .320 batting average and 30 home runs. If Tatis Jr. stays hot and ramps things up at some point before the season is over, he could be joining this highly elite group of players in just a handful of months.
How Valuable Is He To the Padres Overarching Success?
In a word, very. Anyone could pick up on that just by watching a few of his extremely entertaining highlight reels. There is so much baseball IQ displayed on the diamond when he is on the base paths it’s utterly ridiculous. Fernando Tatis Jr. is proving the Padres with value, wins, and excitement even more-so than Machado has this season (who by the way, is doing amazing this year too).
Tatis Jr. most likely will continue to get better and better as the Padres continue to refine and build their team up to be a powerhouse in the NL West. If Tatis Jr. can become and even better defensive player to compliment his blazing speed and hitting abilities, we’re looking at one of the best shortstops in the past decade. Despite the Padres losing record, I stand by my statement that this team has become one of the most intriguing ones in the league. Looking through their roster, you can find just about all the key ingredients for long term success with the guys they are putting out on the field. A superstar signed for a decade, an outfield filled with power threats left and right, a dominant closer to shut out games, and now a young stud who is well on his way to becoming one of the faces of Major League Baseball.
Whether you even care about the Padres success or not, Fernando Tatis Jr. is well worth your time to take a good look at, if you already haven’t. His triumphs and entertaining nature is what makes him such and exciting and enticing player to watch.