With Fernando Tatis Jr. out, what now?

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With Fernando Tatis Jr. out for the season, what is the next move for the San Diego Padres?

The San Diego Padres organization was struck with a crushing blow last week when electrifying rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. hit the Injured List with what was originally thought to be back spasms.

Later on that day, it was revealed that the injury might be more serious than previously anticipated as manager Andy Green announced that Tatis would most likely miss the rest of the season with his injury.

There are many questions surrounding this situation as a fan, player evaluator, fantasy expert, etc.

Is Tatis destined to be an injury-prone player? Will this be a lingering injury that affects Tatis for the rest of his career? Would moving the young shortstop to a less demanding position help his long-term health?

All valid questions, but questions that will only be answered after years of passed time.

In the meantime, what does the Tatis injury mean for the 2019 Padres?

As of this writing, the team is sitting at 59-67 on the year, on pace to finish their ninth straight season with a losing record. They are just seven games out of the second wild-card spot, but they are even closer to netting a top ten pick in next year’s MLB Amateur Draft. They are as close to being a good team as they are to being in the National League cellar.

Going forward, the team will be focusing on development and individual player evaluation over making moves with the team’s record in mind. Or they should at least.

To be clear, the team is going to try to win. Each player will continue to grind and improve in the hopes that the team can sneak into the 2019 playoffs with an NL Wild Card berth. This is to be expected of the players as a majority of them are playing for contracts as well as future opportunities in baseball. But it is also safe to expect a lot of losing from the Friars down the stretch.

Tatis Jr. was, by all means, the team’s best player. His 3.6 fWAR easily leads the team, topping the Padres’ other superstar Manny Machado by 1.1 fWAR. As a leadoff hitter, he has thrived, hitting for power and stealing bases whenever he graces the field. Now, the Padres must figure out a way to replace the spark Tatis brought to the team, but unfortunately, there are no clear-cut candidates to fill that role.

Ty France will be given the opportunity to prove his flexibility as he will play a lot of second base with Luis Urias shifting to shortstop in Tatis Jr.’s absence. Both have torn up the Pacific Coast League this year but have received limited opportunity in the Major Leagues. Come September they will have that chance.

Don’t be surprised if 2018 3rd round pick Owen Miller finds his way into the middle infield discussion when rosters expand. The 22-year old is slashing .285/.349/.426 for Double-A Amarillo this season while playing both middle infield positions. Although his offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping, he’s a very consistent bat that the Padres often lack at the major league level. With Tatis out, why not give even more young players the opportunity to prove themselves?

Tatis Jr.’s injury doesn’t affect the starting staff quite as much as the team’s offense, obviously, but it does make some decisions easier for the front office and coaching staff regarding pitcher usage. Sixteen of the Padres pitchers are either in their rookie/second years or coming off major injuries. This means that most of the team’s pitchers are on innings limits to preserve their long-term health.

If the Padres were in the thick of the playoff race come mid-September, maybe the front office lets rookie starter Chris Paddack throw a few more innings or go another start. Maybe San Diego gets introduced to Mackenzie Gore ahead of schedule in somewhat of a bullpen role. Now, scenarios such as those seem increasingly unlikely as the Padres team is at a severe disadvantage without their star player.

Overall it is very easy to be disappointed by the Tatis injury. He is an objectively exciting baseball player, and losing him hurts the team tremendously. But there are still plenty of reasons to watch the Padres the rest of the way. They still have Manny Machado, the defensive wizard and best hitter on the team. Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, and Francisco Mejia have all experienced mini breakouts this season offensively as have Cal Quantrill, Kirby Yates, and Joey Lucchesi on the pitching side of things.

There are many reasons to watch the Padres and hope for a miracle run, as unlikely as it is. Their focus will be on player development and individual player evaluation to prep for the 2020 Major League Baseball season, and that’s okay. The organization has an embarrassment of riches in the minor leagues and allowing for some of those players to prove what they can be in the major leagues will be important for the franchise’s already-bright future.

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Ryan Davis
Born and raised in Vista, Ryan has been a Padres fan since birth. Currently attending Palomar College, Ryan is trying his hand at expressing his passion for baseball through writing. There is no better life than the baseball life.

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