The San Diego Padres are expecting to get a lineup-changing piece back in their lineup in the next few months, as Fernando Tatis Jr. is going to bring his elite power back into the fold following his parade of injuries and suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.
The Padres may not have gone to a World Series without Tatis, the club’s performance in the playoffs showed that they have a very strong foundation. He could be the X-factor that this team needs to contend for a championship at some point in the near future.
Tatis may need to rebuild his relationships in the clubhouse, but no one is doubting his baseball ability at the dish and in the field. The Padres seem willing to turn their infield alignment on their heads entirely in order to put No. 23 in the best position to succeed.
According to Kevin Agee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Padres are expected Tatis to return to shortstop, with Kim moving over to second base and Jake Cronenworth shifting to first base. This could be a risky endeavor, given some of the potential free agents this team is looking at.
Will Fernando Tatis Jr. play SS for the San Diego Padres?
With Wil Myers, Brandon Drury, and Josh Bell all potential free agents after this season, moving Cronenworth over to first base makes sense. While Bell is coming off a poor tenure in San Diego, and Drury could leave for a richer offer elsewhere, there’s value in making one of them the first baseman and finding an alternate role for Tatis.
Cronenworth, Kim, and Manny Machado are as good and exciting a defensive infield as there is in the National League. If this infield isn’t broke, why try to fix it? Bringing back Bell or Drury to play first base full-time while finding another role for the mighty bat of Tatis might be the best short-term move.
On the other hand, keeping the Cronenworth-Kim double-play duo means that Tatis will either move to DH work (which would be an egregious waste of his talent) or send him to the outfield. This could be a defensive nightmare, but making that change could help Tatis return to his preferred position.
The Padres have tied themselves to Tatis for so long that they need to do everything in their power to accentuate his talents. However, if that comes at the expense of one of the game’s best infields, that could get a contingency of this fanbase to become very irate.