Fernando Tatis Jr. is entering his second season with the San Diego Padres, and MLB has predicted that he’ll be the team’s breakout star and MVP candidate.
Would Fernando Tatis Jr. have had a shot at winning the National League Rookie of the Year if he managed to stay healthy? It’s tough to say given how well Pete Alonso mashed the ball all year long. However, the San Diego Padres’ phenom is ready for his second season in the big leagues and worked on making his back stronger, which was the culprit for a shortened 2019.
We’re still in the early stages of Spring Training, and that means one thing. Predictions, and lots of them. MLB writer Will Leitch predicted a breakout star for every team, and he’s pegged Tatis Jr. as the Padres’ candidate. But he also goes one step further:
"“Clean up the defense and stay in the lineup all year, and you’re looking at an MVP candidate.”"
Wow. Okay, he went right for it.
It’s not an unfathomable idea that Tatis Jr could be good enough to win the National League MVP. It’s hard not to agree that he needs to clean up his defense, as the then 20-year-old committed 18 errors in the field last year, which was good for a negative 2.0 defensive-runs-saved. There were several plays that he tried to do too much and perhaps should have just eaten the ball.
That will improve with experience, and Tatis Jr. reminds me of a bit of Tim Anderson for the Chicago White Sox. Both players are tremendously talented at the plate and are flashy in terms of their overall persona, but both guys committed a ton of errors last year. Anderson led all of baseball with 26.
Fangraphs projects a .265/.333/.484 slash line with 30 home runs and 81 RBI (112 wRC+) for Tatis Jr. in 2020, but he’ll need to decrease his strikeouts as well. The addition of Tommy Pham could have an overall positive influence on the team in that regard, but the game should, hopefully, start to slow down for Tatis.
Looking at the last several NL MVP winners:
- 2019 – Cody Bellinger: .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs and 115 RBI
- 2018 – Christian Yelich: .326/.402/.598 with 36 home runs and 110 RBI
- 2017 – Giancarlo Stanton: .281/.376/.631 with 59 home runs and 132 RBI
- 2016 – Kris Bryant: .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI
It would appear that Tatis Jr.’s projected numbers could potentially come up short in what has, historically, been good enough for the award. He’ll have to vastly outperform his estimates and log better than a .944 fielding percentage in 2020.
Individual awards aside, his importance to the overall team’s performance was apparent after his back injury prematurely ended his year. The Padres finished with a 25-47 record in the second half last season, but could have potentially found themselves in the hunt for the Wild Card had Tatis finished the year.