Friday, the San Diego Padres took on the White Sox in a 2-0 win. Fernando Tatis Jr. was slated to be the designated hitter, but was replaced before the game by Luis Urias in the starting lineup. Tatis was removed from the lineup due to an illness. The infielder will likely remain out of Saturday’s game as well while he recovers from a fever. The 19-year-old prospect will hopefully return to the field against the Giants on Sunday.
The Padres knew they were getting a special player when they acquired Tatis. He is now ranked No. 8 on the overall Top 100 list. When asked about his top ranking, “It is what it is,” said Tatis Jr. “I don’t care if I’m number one or number 30, I’m still going to work hard and still going to do my best and keep going.” Tatis Jr. is hitting .381/.458/.667 with one home run, three steals on three attempts, and a 7:3 K:BB in 21 at-bats this spring. The Padres shortstop is the youngest player in any Major League Baseball camp this spring. “People always talking about it, but I really don’t care,” said Tatis Jr.
Padres general manager A.J. Preller was with the Texas Rangers when he first saw Tatis Jr. when he was 14 or 15. Tatis Jr. ended up signing with the White Sox. That Padres scouting department continued to follow Tatis Jr., so when the Padres moved Shields, the young player was a “priority guy,” the GM said. “When you see guys you like, that are interesting, obviously the son of a big leaguer and everything like that, those guys stick with you,” Preller said.
Tatis Jr. quickly moved through the Padres’ farm system in 2017, starting in Single-A Fort Wayne and moving up to Double-A San Antonio. Fashioning a 1.054 on-base-plus slugging percentage in July, and pushing it to 1.262 in August, warranted the aggressive promotion. Tatis responded by logging the first four-hit game of his career in his second week in the Texas League, with a .255/.281/.327 batting line in the 14-game audition, and going 7-for-20 (.350) with a homer and two RBI during the Missions’ five-game playoff run. For his first full season as a pro, Tatis Jr. finished with a .278/.379/.498 batting line with 22 homers and 32 steals.
Preller said Tatis likely will start the season at Double-A. A promotion to the bigs will depend on a lot of factors, a big one being how he does against pitchers in the Texas League. “The good ones, they come quick,” Preller said. “We’re going to try to challenge guys. We’re not going to put them where they drown.”
San Diego Padres’ farm director Sam Geaney on Tatis: “We knew he was very, very talented,” Geaney said. “I do remember when we had him in extended in 2016 and the AZL, it’s the same player. He’s always had this raw, loose athleticism to his game and that’s still there. He’s tightened his swing up. His actions on defense have gotten better.”
“I would think as far as being surprised by last year, by the time he got to instructs in 2016, it was pretty clear to all of us we were looking at a guy who had the chance to be our top prospect by the end of the year. Then he went out and we were pleasantly surprised with how well he progressed offensively, but it wasn’t out of left field.”
Tatis isn’t going to break camp with the big-league club, and likely won’t even make his big-league debut this season, but Tatis is still the talk of Padres’ camp.