Padres: Middle infield depth becomes key with Fernando Tatis Jr. injured

This is the worst-case scenario for Padres fans.

With hopes of a World Series title in our minds, we watched our superstar shortstop, fresh off a 14-year, $340 million extension crumple to the ground on a swing before leaving the game with what’s been dubbed a ‘left shoulder subluxation’.

San Diego will re-evaluate Tatis Jr.’s condition on Tuesday, so for now, we’re stuck in the dark. But it looked bad, to say the least.

We aren’t going to sit here and speculate about the severity of the injury or a potential timeline because we don’t have any information. It’s one of those wait-and-see situations. But what we can do is look at who will get an opportunity to step up in his absence, regardless of how long or short it may be.

Earlier this spring, I talked about how AJ Preller could look to deal from his biggest position of strength – the middle infield – this summer. But now, that very same depth will be counted upon to keep the ship afloat in Tatis Jr.’s absence.

At least the Padres have plenty of options up the middle

The good news? There are a ton of different ways manager Jayce Tingler can go to round out the lineup card, especially with Trent Grisham expected back in the next week. Once he’s back in the mix, you can mix-and-match between Ha-Seong Kim, Jake Cronenworth, Tucupita Marcano and Jorge Mateo at shortstop.

“Kim would be the first option,” Tingler said after the game on Monday night. “We know Mateo can play over there, Tuc can play over there and certainly Jake. I feel like we’re going to have guys be able to do that.”

Monday’s injury certainly looked more serious than when he tweaked his shoulder during spring training. If the Padres are without their star for a significant amount of team, they’ll need one of these guys to step up in a big way.

As Tingler noted, Kim is the frontrunner to handle things at shortstop. San Diego brought in the KBO star this offseason on a four-year, $28 million deal. He struggled this spring, but still earned a spot on the team’s 26-man Opening Day roster. Now, he could become a key player for his new team far sooner than he or anyone else likely anticipated.

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On the year, Kim is just 2-for-9 (.222) at the dish and is coming off an 0-for-3 showing against the Giants on Monday. Still, despite his slow start in Cactus League action, there are more than a few folks who believe he’s a legitimate NL Rookie of the Year candidate. Let’s hope that’s the case.