In what was a surprising decision, the San Diego Padres have announced that Fernando Tatis Jr. will break camp as part of the Major League roster (and in turn Luis Urias is going to open the year back at Triple-A). There is no question that Tatis is among the elite prospects in the game (he ranked third in our Top 50 prospect list, which you can view by clicking here), but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to thrive immediately.
It wasn’t a lights out spring that earned his spot on the roster:
.241 (13-54), 2 HR, 4 RBI, 13 R, 2 SB
The numbers that can’t be ignored are his 15 K vs. 6 BB. It’s a fair concern after he posted the following marks over 394 PA at Double-A last season:
- Strikeouts – 27.7%
- Walks – 8.4%
- SwStr% – 16.5%
Keep in mind that he’s going to play the year at just 20-years old and has never set foot on a Triple-A field. Would it be a surprise to see him struggle to make consistent contact to start his MLB career? That’s not to say that there isn’t hope, just look at these scouting reports from MLB.com and Baseball America:
His plus-plus raw power plays from line to line because he’s comfortable letting the ball travel deep into the zone. While he can be too aggressive at times, leading to some swing-and-miss issues, Tatis has a consistent approach, puts together good at-bats and shows a high capacity for making adjustments. – MLB.com
Tatis has a loose, rhythmic swing with a lot of moving parts that sometimes get out of whack, but when everything is in sync, he is an offensive force. Tatis tracks pitches deep and powers his barrel through the zone, driving the ball with excellent extension and leverage. Balls explode off his bat from gap-to-gap, and he shows off his plus-plus raw power with towering pullside home runs. Tatis has bouts of over-aggressiveness that lead to elevated strikeout totals, but he generally self-corrects. – Baseball America
The question then is how long will it take him to adjust? It’s hard to envision it coming immediately, especially against advanced pitchers who will likely feed him a steady diet of breaking balls and offspeed pitches, and seeing the strikeouts pile up initially is a near given. Obviously the potential both in terms of home runs and stolen bases could trump that, but will he be able to make enough contact to avoid spending time at Triple-A at some point?
Let’s assume that he is able to rack up 500 AB over the course of 2019 (though 400-425 may be a better expectation, given the risk of a demotion). Here’s what we’d expect:
.244 (122-500), 19 HR, 65 RBI, 60 R, 17 SB, .324 BABIP, .299 OBP, .428 SLG
Those numbers aren’t necessarily going to blow you away, but there’s a chance he produces a 20/20 campaign. The key question is the strikeout rate and his ability to make the necessary adjustments. If he’s going to strikeout this much (this projection has him at 30.64%) the AVG/OBP is going to struggle and the risk of a demotion will loom large. If he can cut that down, even into the 25% range, the production could be off the charts.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, Baseball America
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 Top 10 Prospect Lists: