Padres Prospect Taking Baseball By Storm

Fernando Tatis Jr. is now one of the game's most exciting young players

Every year a young baseball player makes “the jump.” It happens when something clicks and all the natural talent that came out only sporadically is unleashed in full force.

This year that happened to Fernando Tatis Jr.

The Padres shortstop prospect put together a season for the ages that came so far out of left field not even the club saw it coming.

“I don’t think so,” said Padres Assistant Scouting Director Chris Kemp. “I mean before the season if you had said this guy is going to put up those kinds of numbers you’d be like, ‘Nah, I don’t think so.’ It’s kind of crazy. I mean for him to finish the year in Double-A in a playoff hunt is pretty special.”

A bit of context on that; Tatis is only 18 years old. When the season started with the Fort Wayne Tincaps he was the 5th-youngest player in the Low-A Midwest League. After a month he was struggling like youngsters do. Then in early May the switch seemed to flip.

“My first half was not very good but then I was learning,” said Tatis. “You can’t erase but I’m glad it happened because I can learn from it and now be even better.”

Oh, learn from it he did. In a 91-game stretch Tatis hit .300 with 19 home runs, 56 RBI and 23 stolen bases, becoming the youngest 20-20 player in Midwest League history. That earned him a call-up to Double-A San Antonio, where Tatis entered the playoff hunt … finished on a 9-game hitting streak … and in the post-season hit .350 as the Missions leadoff hitter, scoring a run in every single game.

Have we mentioned he’s only 18?

Recently Tatis had a pair of hits in the Padres instructional league game against the best prospects in the Texas Rangers system. The game was held at Petco Park, giving the farmhands a taste of what it’s like to reach The Show.

But that’s something Tatis is already quite familiar with.

“I’ve been with my dad on a big league field and those memories came back. I’m glad and proud to be here,” said Tatis, whose father (Tatis Sr.) played 11 years in the bigs and is the only man to hit two grand slams in one inning. Senior did that in 1999, tagging Dodgers starter Chan Ho Park for both of them.

The younger Fernando has tapped in to his dad’s experiences to help him get on the express lane to the big leagues.

“We would talk on a daily basis on what I was doing and what was happening in the season. My dad was a professional. He played this game so he knows what, when this happens, what you have to do. He told me to keep it simple. Learn each day. It’s a long season so you never know what’s going to happen.”

Tatis started the year as an intriguing talent. He ended it as one of the top 15 prospects in all of baseball. Padres General Manager A.J. Preller expects Tatis to stay at shortstop and likely start 2017 back at San Antonio where he will likely be the youngest player in the Texas League.

But with great talent comes great expectations. Tatis thrived in relative obscurity. Now he’s center-stage and being looked at as the answer to the Padres long-time troubles at shortstop. If there is pressure in that, Fernando says he hasn’t felt it.

“No pressure at all,” said Tatis. “It just motivates me even more to work harder because I’ve got to bring it every day and be even better because people are expecting that.”

The Dominican-born Tatis also understands he has the kind of talent to make baseball exciting again. He wants to put on a show for the folks in the stands.

“I give it my 100% because you never know when it’s going to be that chance that people are going to see me play.”

The Padres haven’t had an exciting young shortstop since Khalil Greene. Fernando Tatis Jr. could end that drought a lot faster than anyone expected.

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