Ahead in the count 1-0, Fernando Tatis Jr. waited for Tony Gonsolin’s next delivery. Gonsolin hurled an 88 mph slider, but he left it right down the middle.
Tatis didn’t miss it. With a 116.6 mph exit velocity, Tatis sent the ball 467 feet on top of the pavilion in left field at Dodger Stadium for his 42nd home run of the 2021 season.
What nobody knew, though, is that this would be the last major league home run for Tatis until he would get another chance in 2023.
Initially, Tatis missed the start of the 2022 season due to a wrist injury due to a motorcycle accident, but then he was suspended for PED usage, holding him out of the rest of the 2022 season and the first 20 games of the 2023 season.
Before the shenanigans, Fernando Tatis Jr. was the face of Major League Baseball
He had the talent, the swagger and the marketability. Now, he needs to earn back the trust of his teammates, opponents and fans.
While it is inexcusable and undefendable why Tatis missed all of 2022, it seems people have quickly forgotten how good of a baseball player he is.
For example, MLB Network’s annual Top 100 Player Right Now list ranked Tatis as the 26th best player in baseball. Blasphemous.
From 2019-2021, Tatis’ offensive numbers were straight out of a video game, slashing .292/.369/.596 (153 weighted Runs Created+) while stealing 52 bases in 273 games.
In the same time frame, Tatis’ 13.6 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) was the third-highest among position players. Had he played as many games as the leader, Juan Soto, he likely would’ve led in the category by a wide margin.
Tatis is so good that, despite missing the first 20 games of the 2023 season and all of 2022, he is tied for the fifth-shortest betting odds to win the National League’s Most Valuable Player.
The last time Tatis stepped onto a Major League Baseball field, the Padres lost their final game of the 2021 season, finishing with a 79-83 record. A lot has changed in San Diego since.
In 2022, the Padres advanced to the NLCS after going 89-73 in the regular season. At the trade deadline, in part because of the anticipated return of Tatis, the Padres pushed all of their chips to the middle of the table and acquired Juan Soto and Josh Hader among others.
Over the offseason, the Padres made another big move, signing shortstop Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million contract. The Padres signing Bogaerts — and showing interest in Trea Turner before he signed with Philadelphia — made it clear that the team no longer viewed Tatis as their shortstop.
After returning from a shoulder injury in 2021, the Padres experimented by playing Tatis in the outfield, but the bulk of his playing time at the end of the season came at shortstop.
Tatis now figures to be San Diego’s everyday right fielder with Trent Grisham in center field and Soto in left field. If Tatis stays on the field, the Padres outfield is among (if not) the best in baseball.
In 2021, Tatis ranked above the 95th percentile in Barrel% (99th), Sprint Speed (96th) and Arm Strength (100th). Whether it’s at the plate, on the base or in the field, Tatis is one of the rare players that has the ability to take over a game on any given pitch.
Ramping up in Triple-A, Tatis slashed .515/.590/.1.212 (295 wRC+) with seven homers and two stolen bases in just eight games. Albeit against weaker opposition, Tatis showed that he’s more than ready to return to the major leagues.
Tatis’ suspension is over, and his return to the Padres lineup is finally imminent. Sitting just under .500 with Manny Machado and Soto not playing their best baseball, Tatis will give a huge lift to the Padres.
Major League Baseball has missed Tatis’ talent, bat flips and swagger. He’s back and he’s ready to lead San Diego to its first World Series title in franchise history.