ESPN released their ranking of baseball’s top 100 players for 2023. Of course, the entire list is a matter of opinion, but one particular ranking stuck with me. Coming in at 25 was the starting right fielder for the San Diego Padres, Fernando Tatis Jr.
How quickly we forget that the once proclaimed “face of baseball” was named Fernando Tatis. At age 24, he has performed at an MVP level in his first 273 major league games. Tatis is one of the most electric players in baseball, producing 81 home runs, 52 stolen bases, a two time All-MLB First Team (2020, 2021) and a two time Silver Slugger Award winner (2020, 2021). His accolades have just begun to stack up.
Tatis did miss the entire 2022 season due to a wrist injury that eventually turned into a steroid suspension (20 games remaining on his 80 game suspension). Tatis has shown this spring that he is back to full health (he used the suspension to have shoulder and wrist surgery). Playing right field for the first time this spring, Tatis has shown flashes of flair with his glove already.
Sliding grab by Tatis in RF! pic.twitter.com/yN1mRdygVL
— Talking Friars (@TalkingFriars) March 4, 2023
Projected to bat lead off in a lineup that has 2022 MVP finalist Manny Machado, 2023 MVP front-runner Juan Soto, four time All-Star Xander Bogaerts and two time All-Star Jake Cronenworth, Tatis is projected to see near career highs in all batting categories. FANGRAPHS has Tatis projected to bat .274, .569 slugging, and 36 home runs. This spring has given this projection credibility. After starting zer-for-16, Tatis over his last seven games is batting .555 with one home run and six RBIs
Fernando Tatis Jr. is heating up. 📈
In his last seven games:
◼️ .555 Batting Avg. (10-18)
◼️ 6 RBI
◼️ HR and Double
◼️ 7 Runs
◼️ 1 Strikeout last 11 AB
Started 0-16, now has a .294 Avg., .375 OPB and .787 OPS. pic.twitter.com/Fh2SSpWeep
— Darnay Tripp (@DarnayTripp) March 24, 2023
The leadership of the Padres are expecting a motivated version of El Nino and thus far, Tatis has given them no reason not to believe. The statement from the Padres after the suspension announcement ended with this, “we fully support the program and are hopeful Fernando will learn from his experience.” With 20 games left of Tatis’ suspension, all signs are pointing towards a fully healthy and a different focus than what we’ve seen before from Tatis.
Which brings us back to the ESPN top 100 players of 2023 rankings. Tatis, this spring, is showing signs of his 2021 self, all while learning a new position and playing with a fully healthy shoulder for the first time in his career. Add in the all-star lineup with Tatis batting lead off, and it is shaping up to not only be a Comeback Player of the Year campaign, but Tatis has the upside potential to be in the category of Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and Aaron Judge. Ultimately, it’ll be his play on the field that proves ESPN wrong with his ranking, but as we come to the end of spring training 2023 Tatis is well on his way.