It’s frustrating thinking about what the San Diego Padres could’ve accomplished this postseason had Fernando Tatis Jr. been a part of the team.
The former All-Star didn’t play a single game in 2022 after undergoing surgery to repair a broken wrist suffered in an offseason motorcycle accident. It was later reported Tatis underwent a second wrist surgery.
Already an embarrassing look for the young superstar, Tatis was hit with an 80-game suspension after he popped positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The suspension came while Tatis was on a minor league rehab assignment, so he was gearing up for a return to the Padres, making it all the more infuriating.
Though still backed by the fans, it goes without saying Tatis has work to do to restore the fan base’s trust after a distraction-filled 2022.
A full-fledged focus on baseball would be a good place to start. The Padres desperately need Tatis’ influence in the lineup and on the diamond. But will the 23-year-old phenom reclaim his everyday role as the starting shortstop?
With the Padres in need of a first basemen, Derek Togerson of NBC 7 San Diego proposed shifting Tatis to the corner of the diamond.
Could the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. change positions in 2023?
This might seem like a crazy idea at first glance, but Togerson makes some salient points that support his argument.
The first being that Tatis was a liability at shortstop the last time Padres fans saw him. In 102 games at SS in 2021, he made 22 errors, a far cry from his exemplary 2020 display when he was subbed out of a Gold Glove. Will Tatis’ shoulder surgery lead to less throwing blunders? It’s certainly possible, but there’s also the Ha-Seong Kim variable to consider.
It’s no secret Kim provided stability at shortstop in Tatis’ wake this season. As Togerson notes, Kim’s offense improved mightily in 2022, where he jumped to a .251/.325/.383 slash line with 11 home runs, 59 RBI and 130 hits after hitting .202/.270/.352 with eight homers and 34 RBI over 117 games in 20212.
Would it be so crazy to leave Kim at short, keep Jake Cronenworth and Manny Machado at second and third, respectively and shifting Tatis to first? You could also argue moving Cronenworth to first base and Kim to second with Tatis reclaiming the shortstop role, as Kevin Agee of the San Diego Union-Tribune proposed.
Moving Tatis to the outfield is another idea that’s gained steam, but Trent Grisham is as good as they come in center field and was just rewarded with a Gold Glove. That leaves left and right field, where Juan Soto currently patrols. If Jurickson Profar returns — there’s mutual interest in making that happen — odds are he’ll reclaim his role as the every day left fielder after the strides he’s made over the years.
Tatis returning to shortstop is the most likely outcome, but we’re not opposed to the Padres keeping their options open with the oft-injured slugger. His track record at shortstop leaves a lot to be desired and if a position change — whether it be first base or the outfield — improves his chances of staying healthy, we’re all ears.