Can Ha-seong Kim push Fernando Tatis Jr. to the outfield?
Should the Padres move Fernando Tatis Jr. to the outfield when he returns from injury and keep Ha-seong Kim at shortstop?
Ha-seong Kim’s emergence as a linchpin, both in the San Diego Padres lineup and on the diamond, has been one of the only pleasant surprises of the season so far.
That he’s been filling in for Fernando Tatis Jr. (and occasionally, Manny Machado) only makes his performance – on the diamond and at the plate – more impressive. This incredible stop is a great example of how Kim has stepped up:
So, what will the Padres do with Kim once Tatis returns? Why not put the latter in the outfield, and keep Kim at shortstop?
Tatis is an incredible hitter, but his defense leaves something to be desired. He’s made 42 errors in 242 career games at shortstop, for a .951 fielding percentage and -9 Rdrs (defensive runs saved above average, or in his case, well below average). In 2021, he made 21 errors and had a -6 Rdrs over 102 games at short, but only made one error in 24 games as an outfielder.
In Tatis’ absence, the Padres made MLB history as the first team to open the season with 11 consecutive error-less games. That’s pretty much the only upside to playing without him, but it serves as a reminder that there’s certainly room for infield improvement.
Kim can provide that improvement. Prior to his posting by his KBO team, the Kiwoom Heroes, he won three consecutive KBO League Golden Glove Awards between 2018-20. He’s made two errors in 25 games at short this season, on pace for far less than Tatis had last year.
That Kim has improved as a hitter only strengthens his case to stay in the Padres’ lineup. He’s drawing more walks and striking out less; his on-base percentage is 57 points higher than last year. He homered eight times in 117 games last year and already has four home runs in 30 games this season.
With Trent Grisham hitting a meager .155 and Matt Beaty on the Injured List, there’s room for Tatis in the outfield. He can also DH, as the National League finally adopted that this year.
Regardless of how they do it, Tatis’ return shouldn’t come at the cost of Kim’s excellent play.