Sunday, December 5

Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. home runs at IL return again, makes first outfield appearance

Fernando Tatis Jr. does not appear to show rust when he comes off the disabled list.

For the third time this year, Tatis was placed in IL. And for the third time this year, he homered on his return. This time, he homered not one, but two, ending Sunday’s 8-2 victory after hitting 4 of 5 from the plate with a double, two home runs, four RBIs and three runs scored. Tatis’ offensive blast was certainly welcomed by the Padres, who just hours earlier weren’t impacted by Diamondbacks rookie Tyler Gilbert.

While the sight of Tatis hitting a home run has become commonplace, his position might have caught some by surprise: Tatis started in right field, the first time he’s played in any position in the majors other than shortstop.

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Tatis is coming back from a shoulder injury after dislocating for at least the fifth time this year. according to The Athletic. That has raised concerns that he might need surgery; San Diego, now 67-53, is just 2.5 games above the Reds for second place as a National League wild card. The team has needed its All-Star shortstop, especially after losing four in a row.

Tatis has slashed .298 / .378 / .671 with 33 home runs and 23 stolen bases for the year, emerging as the favorite to win the NL MVP despite multiple trips to the disabled list. His 33 home runs lead the National League and he is the only baseball player with more than 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

Moving Tatis to the outfield would likely reduce the strain he faces on defense, not to mention it could help the Padres improve slightly at the position. Despite reporting on a possible defense of the caliber of the Gold Glove, Tatis has struggled, especially in 2021. His outs of minus 1 above average rank him 17th in the league among shortstops, according to Baseball Savant. , and generally ranks him in the 24th percentile among all MLB players. And while his range and dazzling play prowess have impressed, his 20 errors are tied for the MLB lead. His .934 fielding percentage is the worst among qualified shortstops, according to Fangraphs. On Sunday, he caught all three soaring balls that hit his way.

If Tatis finds himself in right field for the remainder of the season, it would likely mean that Jake Cronenworth and Ha-Seong Kim would see most of their time at shortstop for the remainder of the season, with Adam Frazier taking over at second base. . The outfield would start to get more interesting as the team already had Trent Grisham, Tommy Pham and Wil Myers posting above-average offensive production. Myers could return to the top spot, the position he held in San Diego before the team signed Eric Hosmer, who could offer the team a platoon option on the field.

Finding a place to fit in all these bats is never a bad problem, especially down the stretch of the postseason.

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