A.J. Preller gives encouraging update on Fernando Tatis Jr.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Fernando Tatis Jr #23 of San Diego Padres (Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Fernando Tatis Jr #23 of San Diego Padres (Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images) /

In a year that was supposed to serve as a de facto coronation for one of the best young players in baseball, San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has ad much of an on-field impact as anyone reading this article. Injuries and a suspension will do that to you.

Not only were a barrage of shoulder injuries the first thing to keep Tatis off the MLB stage for the entire season, but a PED suspension eroded trust between him and the organization. Fresh off signing an eye-watering 14-year contract, the Padres may have slight buyer’s remorse.

All of those doubts can go away if Tatis can return to the lineup and mash as he did before all of his 2022 issues. The latest updates from the San Diego front office make it seem like Padres fans can expect Tatis to return to action as soon as possible with no side effects.

According to GM A.J. Preller, Tatis will spend the winter months getting back in shape, putting him on track to return to baseball activities by the time spring training comes around. San Diego making the NLCS again without Tatis in the lineup is likely not happening.

Fernando Tatis Jr. will return to the San Diego Padres.

Tatis is fresh off leading the NL in home runs in 2021 and stealing 25 bases at just 22 years old despite missing 32 games. His per 162-game pace shows that El Nino is averaging 48 home runs and 31 steals. Having that bat in the lineup will be transformative.

With the aging Wil Myers and Josh Bell both free agents, the most likely infield lineup involves moving defensive wizard Ha-Seong Kim to second base and Jake Cronenworth over to first base. Tatis and Manny Machado are as good of a left side as there is in the game today.

While Tatis has enough physical talent to return to his old form, he needs to be able to rebuild the bridges that he may have burned after his positive test. It will be a while before we see Tatis back at full strength, and knowing that is surely going to be a source of irritation for this roster.

What Tatis did was incredibly selfish, but the idea of potentially leading off with No. 23 and following him in the order with two MVP frontrunners in Juan Soto and Manny Machado has to get Bob Melvin excited about how high the ceiling is going to be for this offense.