Fernando is the son of Fernando Tatis, former 11-year veteran big leaguer. Unlike his father, Fernando Jr. has a tall, lean frame with broad shoulders.
Junior often tagged along in clubhouses as a child. He was 11 when his father quit playing, so he remembers quite a bit about his final years with the New York Mets. Guidance on how to play the game has come over the years, of course, but so too has advice on how to navigate the early stages of the Minor Leagues.
"My dad just keeps it simple with me," said Tatis, whose grandfather played for about a decade in the Astros system. "He just says 'work hard, you know what to do and no matter what, have fun. Because this game is going to be tough on you, and you've got to keep it that way.'"
In 2015, the White Sox signed Tatis, Jr. (see Transactions below).
In 2017, Baseball America rated Ferando as the 17th-best prospect in the Padres' organization. They moved him to the top, as the #1 prospect in the Padres' organization in the winter before 2018 spring camp opened. And he stayed at #1 in 2019.
October 2017: Fernando was named the Padres Prospect of the Year by MLBPipeline.com. That is because Tatis became the first 18-year-old ever to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in the low Class A Midwest League and was promoted to Double-A San Antonio in August, where he hit .350 n the Texas League playoffs! At age 18!
Tatis is a natural leader. He is nearly bilingual and an effective communicator with impressive self-awareness for his age.
From the moment he arrived in June 2016, the Padres knew Fernando was special. They didn't know just how special until one September afternoon in Tempe.
As a 17-year-old shortstop, Tatis had wowed scouts all summer with his easy athleticism, big league frame and smooth swing. But that was in Rookie ball. This was instructional ball, featuring the best young talent from every organization.
In the first inning that day, Tatis smashed a single and stole second then third on the next two pitches. In his next at-bat, he singled and stole two bases again. In his third at-bat, he launched an opposite-field home run. For good measure, he added an excellent defensive play.
"He just took over the entire baseball game," said one member of the Padres' player development staff. "He was so clearly the best player on the field that day. Then there was a week's worth of it. He hit oppo home run after oppo home run, made play after play, and we were like 'Oh my God.'"
The legend was born, though it took some time to make its way into the national consciousness. Tatis was still an unknown commodity, nowhere to be found on any prospect rankings. Twenty months later in Spring Training 2018, Tatis is the crown jewel of the Padres' top-ranked farm system. He's the presumed shortstop of the future.
The Padres conclude their developmental seasons with a prospects game at Petco Park. In 2016, they beat the Rangers in Tatis' first game at his future home stadium. In the clubhouse afterward, Tatis addressed the team unprompted. He told his teammates not to let up in their offseason work and that he believed in the direction of the system.
"It was cool to see," Sam Geaney, the Padres director of personnel, said. "The emotional maturity and the personal growth, I think that was a point we all thought was significant—to stand up in front of his peers and deliver that message." "This is just the beginning," Tatis said. "We've got to grind every day now." This is just the beginning . . . for his own career, and perhaps the revitalization of the San Diego Padres. (Cassavell - mlb.com - 3/13/18)
Tatis learned English as a second language at school and got to practice it in the States on his summer trips to follow his dad around the big leagues. He quickly became the favorite and best interview of anyone covering the Fort Wayne TinCaps last year. The youngest player on the team at age 18, Tatis quickly became the team leader.
“From the beginning, on his first day in town, he was unfazed by the idea of holding court,” Fort Wayne broadcaster and media relations manager John Nolan said. “Answering questions about himself, his dad, his team? He was never fazed by any of it.”
As the son of a big leaguer, Tatis Jr. cruised through childhood enjoying a life that was effortless compared with that of his father. He got a top-notch education. He grew up wandering through big league clubhouses. His mother, Maria, and his father have been able to provide him everything he needed. And his neighbor, Robinson Cano, has helped as well, taking Tatis Jr. under his wing and training with him in the offseason.
Fernando Jr. will have plenty of people to celebrate with. His dreams will only be beginning, but for his parents, it will be the culmination of a life-long desire. Their son has fulfilled his dreams, and they’ve helped clear the path.
“It is very special for me. To be close to him, it’s a very special moment,” Tatis Sr. said. “Watching him play and seeing everything he can do in baseball is amazing. Every day I just want to be there for him, teaching him the right way to get there. (JJ Cooper - Baseball America - 5/04/2018)
In 2018, Tatis represented the Padres in the All-Star Futures game. He played the whole game in a 10-6 loss to the U.S. squad, contributing a pair of hits, a stolen base, and a run scored.
Jan 14, 2019: It's been a while since the Padres entered a season with a highly touted youngster set for significant time at shortstop. This year, they have two. Fernando Tatis Jr. is San Diego's shortstop of the future. Tatis is the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, and he's going to take the reins at some point this season.
But it's unlikely Tatis opens the regular season with the big league club, having only played 102 games at Double-A. In the interim, Luis Urias will probably be handed the keys at shortstop. Urias is widely believed to be Tatis' long-term double-play partner at second base, but he split time fairly evenly between second and short in the Minors before making his Major League debut in late August last season.
Urias' case to be San Diego's Opening Day shortstop received a serious boost when the Padres signed Ian Kinsler in December. The move was made, in part, to address their shortstop opening, with the front office believing Urias could shift there until Tatis' arrival.
Tatis' ebullient personality should make him an instant fan favorite in San Diego, too. (Just look at this walk-off dinger and bat flip in winter ball.) In the best-case scenario, Tatis realizes his star potential in 2019, and the Padres have a shortstop worth building a contender around. And a budding star at second in Urias to boot. (AJ Cassavell)
March 2019: The Padres felt Fernando Jr. earned their starting shortstop job this spring. Tatis will be the youngest Padres player in history to play on Opening Day, at 20 years and 85 days old. (Cassavell - mlb.com - 3/26/19)
March 27, 2019: Thanks to a collection of prospects regarded as the best in the game and an offseason highlighted by the signing of superstar infielder Manny Machado, the future is looking bright for the Padres. That future got a little bit closer: Fernando Tatis Jr. was named the starting shortstop for San Diego on Opening Day. If all goes according to plan, the left side of the Padres infield will feature a pair of superstars with Machado at third and Tatis at short for the foreseeable future. You're probably familiar with Machado at this point, so it's high time you get to know his infield partner.
His dad was a pretty good player, too
Like Blue Jays prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Tatis' dad enjoyed a long career in the Majors. In fact, Tatis Sr. and Guerrero Sr. were teammates in Montreal from 2001-03.
The elder Tatis is best known for making history as a member of the Cardinals, when he hit two grand slams in one inning off of Dodgers starter Chan Ho Park. That ended up being a career year for Tatis; he wound up with 34 home runs and 107 RBIs.
Tatis Jr. has inherited his father's power. While Tatito hasn't hit two grand slams in a single inning, he has plenty of power in his own right. He spent part of his offseason in the Dominican Winter League, where he was busy launching home runs and bat flips to match.
He has impeccable style. While no official award was presented, Tatis clearly had the best hair in the Cactus League this year. One would think that had some influence on the team's decision to call him up.
And while 98 percent of the shades players wear on the field are indistinguishable from one another, Tatis is out here making some statements.
His defense will put him on a lot of highlight reels. It's no small feat to have the defensive chops to supplant Machado at shortstop, but Tatis definitely has what it takes to earn that place on the diamond. Look at him get vertical to rob one line drive! And then get horizontal to rob another.
With Machado to his right at third base, opposing hitters would probably be wise to just avoid hitting the ball to the left side of the field entirely.
Even for a rookie, he's really young. He will be the youngest player to start on Opening Day since Adrian Beltre debuted for the Dodgers in 1999, just a few months after Tatis was born. Only 31 position players at Tatis' age or younger have started on Opening Day since 1900. So just by stepping on the field, he's going to make history.
And he's got wheels. While Tatis' bat is what gets everyone talking, he's not just another plodding slugger. He stole 7 bases in 23 games in the Dominican Winter League. In Spring Training, he only stole two bases, but still showed off his speed by going first-to-home on a routine single up the middle. (CUT4 - Chesterton - March 27, 2019)
“We talk about Fernando's temperament a lot,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “We appreciate the fact that he's even-keeled. Because we saw that in him. That's why he's up here in the first place. We knew he could handle some ups and downs.” (Cassavell - mlb.com - 4/21/19)
MLB debut (March 29, 2019): Tatis recorded two hits.
Fernando, Jr. has spent a pretty significant chunk of his life in a big league clubhouse. He was born months after Fernando Tatis Sr.’s legendary multi-grand slam inning. As he grew up, Fernando Sr. spent time playing for the Cardinals, Expos, Orioles and Mets, before his 2010 retirement.
“It was awesome,” Tatis Jr. said. “It was everything. Seeing my dad play baseball made my love for the game grow. I'm here because of him.”
Tatis has wowed the Padres with his demeanor during his rookie season. He’s behaved like a veteran, and he’s already become a spark plug for one of the Majors’ youngest teams.
Tatis firmly believes his maturity is a product of the time he spent alongside his father in the big leagues. The two still talk every day. “I think I got an advantage from that, seeing the game from the inside since such a young age,” Tatis said. I learned it pretty young.” (Cassavell - mlb.com - 6/16/19)
July 16, 2019: Tatis received the MLB Players Alumni Association "Heart and Hustle" award for the Padres. This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.
2019 season: While Tatis’ season-ending back injury limited him to 84 games, he still posted 4.2 WAR as a 20-year shortstop with a five-tool skill set. The only other modern players to have such a productive season at that position and age were Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Correa.
Before he was sidelined in mid-August with a back injury, Tatis was on pace for one of the greatest rookie seasons in franchise history. He batted .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers while playing a dazzling brand of shortstop.
But perhaps the most exciting part of his game was his breathtakingly audacious baserunning, mixing smarts and athleticism to baffle opposing defenses. The Padres have spent a decade in search of their shortstop of the future. At long last, they’ve found him.
In a surprise decision on the final day of Spring Training, the Padres announced that Fernando Tatis Jr. had cracked their Opening Day roster. Forget his age and inexperience. Forget service-time considerations. The Padres believed Tatis was the answer at shortstop in 2019. Thus, he would begin the season as their shortstop.
It didn’t take long for Tatis to prove that, after a dozen years searching, the Padres had found their shortstop of the future. To put Tatis' contributions into their proper perspective: Padres shortstops had combined for 3.1 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs, in the 12 years since the team's last postseason appearance. In 84 games this season, Tatis bested that mark with 3.6 WAR.
Injuries limited Tatis to those 84 games. But he batted .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers. In the meantime, he showcased his elite speed and baserunning, and he had a knack for making big plays on defense, too.
"I think I went out there and gave people a small taste of what I've got," Tatis said last month. "It was fun, although we didn't finish how we wanted to finish. It's not over. There's going to be way better years to come."
What went right in 2019?
There was almost no adjustment period for Tatis upon his arrival in San Diego. He took over games with his bat, his glove and his wheels. Within a couple weeks, he was batting leadoff. Within a month or two, he was the undisputed catalyst on offense.
If not for his mid-August back injury, Tatis could have become the youngest player in baseball history to win a batting title. Perhaps more important, Tatis never fell into a prolonged slump at the plate. The 20-year-old found his way on base, even when he wasn't at his best. And when he was? He was one of the most exciting players in the sport.
What went wrong in 2019?
When he was healthy, Tatis was a star. Problem is, Tatis was healthy for only about half the season. He missed all of May with a left hamstring strain. Then, in early August, Tatis' rookie campaign was shut down due to a stress reaction in his lower back.
By all accounts, Tatis was approaching full health toward the end of September. (The Padres never considered taking any risks with a potential comeback though.) His injury shouldn’t linger into the offseason. That said, Tatis also missed two months at the end of the 2018 Minor League season with a broken bone in his left thumb. There are legitimate concerns as to whether he might be a tad injury-prone.
Best moment of 2019?
So many to choose from. Tatis' leaping grab to rob Tampa Bay's Jesus Aguilar is the lasting defensive image from his season. His acrobatic slides and his audacity to tag up on a pair of infield fly balls stand out, too.
But no moment typifies Tatis' impact more than the Padres' six-run rally in the ninth inning of a June game against the Rockies. Tatis started the frame with a single. Then he capped the rally with a game-tying laser to center field.
In 2019, Tatis was third in NL Rookie of the Year balloting, behind Pete Alonso and Mike Soroka. Tatis had two votes for second place and 20 for third place. No Padre has won the NL Rookie of the Year Award since Benito Santiago in 1987. Still, Tatis’ finish is the highest by a Padres rookie since Khalil Greene came in second to Jason Bay in 2004.
Nov 18, 2019: Don't ever take your eyes off Fernando Tatis Jr. Not when he's on the field, when his hair is flowing like he's on the cover of a romance novel and he's making diving plays that stretch the definition of what is physically possible.
I mean, sweet Lord . . . the 1970s-short shorts, the open sweatshirt, the Teen Beat-ready grin that's both disarming and charming at the same time, the abs . . . .
Fernando's younger brother, Elijah, is an infielder in the White Sox organization, signed in 2019.
21 for 21
Jan 2, 2020: Fernando is already one of baseball's most exciting players. From the moment he arrived, Tatis made it clear that he’s a different type of ballplayer. He does things other players can’t. He scores from first on singles, tags from third on infield popups, and hits homers that seem like they might never land. To celebrate Tatis' 21st birthday today, here are the 21 most dazzling moments from his incredible rookie year:
21. A glove and a cannon: What's more impressive here? Tatis’ smooth pick of Daniel Murphy's one-hop missile to shortstop? Or the ensuing 93.4 mph throw to first base, leaving no doubt.
20. Over the bullpen: Tatis' power is arguably his most overlooked tool. But he's got plenty of it—as evidenced by this 440-foot blast, his longest at Petco Park that season.
19. First-to-home: When Eric Hosmer lifted a routine single to right-center field, Tatis, who was on first base at the time, never even broke stride. He scored from first base without the other team even attempting a tag.
18. Free RBIs: Ahh, the perks of hitting behind Tatis. Facing the Cardinals in June, Eric Hosmer bounced a chopper toward shortstop with Tatis on second base. Tatis didn't hesitate rounding third, and he cruised in safely when Paul Goldschmidt juggled the ball at first base.
17. The first of many: Tatis' first big league home run was a no-doubter. He destroyed a fastball from D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly deep into the lower deck in front of the Western Metal Building.
16. A daytime moonshot: In his first trip to Wrigley Field, Tatis left a lasting impression. He demolished a 468-foot tater off Jose Quintana that nearly carried to the lower level of bleacher seats in straightaway center field.
15. Give him an inch . . . Tatis has a habit of taking the extra base when it seems like he shouldn't. Facing the Giants, Tatis was on second base when Eric Hosmer bounced a chopper to the mound. When the ball caromed off Trevor Gott's glove, Tatis was home free.
14. Welcome to the big leagues, kid: Tatis wasted no time proving he belonged in the big leagues. Before his first game, he received a rousing ovation from fans at Petco Park who had long been dreaming of his arrival. He then pounded out hits in each of his first two at-bats—against Madison Bumgarner, no less.
13. The moment you knew: Tatis was on the roster bubble when the Padres traveled to Scottsdale for a late Spring Training game. When Austin Hedges lined a routine single to center, Tatis scored from first base, and he made it look easy. To some in the organization, it was the moment they knew Tatis belonged.
12. Tatis' 180 grab: In the first of Tatis' truly spectacular defensive plays, the rookie shortstop changed direction twice as he backpedaled into left-center field. Then he reached up to rob Zack Greinke of a hit before tumbling onto the outfield grass.
11. Fielder's choice: Seriously, how many players could've scored on a routine chopper back to the mound from Eric Hosmer? Probably only one.
10. Tatis lays out: Combine Fernando's excellent instincts with his other-worldly athleticism, and these are the types of plays you get.
9. Laser show: A five-tool player in every sense of the phrase, Tatis owns a cannon at shortstop that might already be the best in the league. This 94-mph laser was clocked as the fastest throw from a shortstop this season.
8. The infield-fly RBI, part two: There are two plays on this list in which he tagged and scored on a popup to second base. This play against the Giants falls to eighth because, well, it wasn't the first time he’d done it. And the degree of difficulty was lower, with Giants second baseman Joe Panik backpedaling into right field.
7. Like father, like son: Fernando Tatis Sr. is best known as the only player in baseball history to hit two grand slams in the same inning. Tatis Jr. couldn't quite match that feat. But in the finale of his first series in L.A., the younger Tatis became the youngest player ever with a multi-homer game at Dodger Stadium.
6. A bat flip for the ages: Tatis is still waiting for his first walk-off homer in the big leagues. If his reactionary bat flip when that happens is anything like his walk-off homer for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League last January, it'll be epic.
5. He got knocked down, and he got up again: Giants starter Shaun Anderson came high and tight on Tatis, prompting a vitriolic response from a packed Petco Park. No matter. Tatis got his revenge on the next pitch. He smashed a hanging slider into the right-center-field beach area. "If you're playing this game, you're not supposed to have any fear," Tatis would later say.
4. Rally starter, rally finisher: Facing the Rockies in June, the Padres pulled off one of the most miraculous comebacks in franchise history, scoring six times in the ninth inning to tie the game (before winning in the 12th). Tatis started the rally with an opposite-field single, then he capped the rally with a 116-mph rocket into center field, which scored two runs.
3. Jumpman Tatis: If there's an image that has come to define Tatis' rookie season, it's this one. His spectacular leaping grab to rob Jesus Aguilar gets better with every angle.
2. The infield-fly RBI, part one: Hunter Renfroe hits a routine popup to Pirates second baseman Kevin Newman—who even looks at Tatis immediately. Tatis takes off anyway and executes a perfect head-first dive as he stretches his left hand across home plate.
1. Tag him if you can: For all of Tatis' elite skills, his baserunning instincts are probably the most exciting. How many other players could have escaped a routine rundown merely by sliding? Tatis had been picked off by Braves right-hander Mike Soroka . . . only to evade Soroka's tag with a Matrix-esque slide that needs to be seen to be believed. (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - Jan 2, 2020)
If MLB records carried over to the virtual world, Fernando Jr. would’ve spent his Saturday night penciling his name in the history books.
The 21-year-old Padres shortstop had already captivated his audience in the MLB The Show Players League with his enthusiasm and his entertaining reactions early in the tournament, and he continued to do so on Saturday, launching seven home runs in one inning against the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter.
In his third game of the night, Tatis entered the second inning with a 2-1 lead before the Home Run Derby began. He hit his first homer with Francisco Mejía and let out a quick yell in celebration. His second homer, a two-run shot by Tommy Pham, prompted a more prolonged scream. Then, after the third long ball of the frame coming off the bat of Eric Hosmer, Tatis let out his first “Yee-haw.”
The damage didn’t stop there. With one out, Tatis smacked his fourth homer with Jurickson Profar before hitting another with Mejía. Then, with two outs, Tatis' virtual character stepped up to the plate. The man who Padres fans know as “El Niño” hit a two-run blast to make it a 15-1 lead.
After the homer, Tatis screamed, "El Niño! Wow, you’re so good, man. I’m your No. 1 fan, bro. I’m you’re No. 1 fan, Niño.”
Tatis' seventh and final home run came on a two-run shot by Hosmer, and he had no celebratory responses left in him. All the Padres shortstop could do was laugh, as the score ran up to a whopping 17-1. The Major League record for most homers in an inning is five, which has been done by six teams, the most recent being the Nationals (July 27, 2017, vs. the Brewers).
“He’s the greatest player on Earth,” Carpenter said of Tatis with a chuckle. (Mandy Bell - April 20, 2020)
A generational talent with generational flair, Fernando is making his presence felt across the Major League Baseball leaderboards in 2020. And his healthy disregard for the sport's unwritten rules is only helping his cause.
In the fourth inning of the Padres' 6-4 win over the Rangers on at Globe Life Field on August 18, 2020, Tatis unabashedly broke for third base. Never mind that the ball was still in the hand of Rangers righty Ian Gibaut. Never mind that the Padres were already ahead by six runs or that he was stealing third with two outs. Never mind that Gibaut had thrown behind Manny Machado the previous night, one pitch after Tatis sparked a quasi-controversy by swinging on a 3-0 count and hitting a grand slam.
If it wasn’t already clear, it should be now: Tatis only knows one speed. A 6-0 lead in the fourth inning wasn’t enough, so he broke for third base, then swerved to the inside of the baseline when he noticed Todd Frazier with the ball in his glove. Somehow, Tatis avoided Frazier's tag and wrapped his right arm around the third-base bag.
In doing so, Tatis ascended to the top of yet another leaderboard. As of the final out of the game, he was tied for first in the Majors with six stolen bases. He’s alone in first with 23 runs, 11 homers and 28 RBI. “It means I’ve got to keep working very hard, being up there with the best,” Tatis said.
Needless to say, that puts Tatis in some pretty exclusive company. Actually, it might put him in no company at all. Since 1920, when RBI became an official stat, no player has ever finished a season leading the Majors in all four of those categories, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Let’s expand that search a bit to get some comps for Tatis. Per Elias, only three players have ever finished a season ranked in the top three in each of those four categories:
Hank Aaron, 1963: 44 HRs (T-2nd), 130 RBI (1st), 121 runs (1st), 31 SBs (3rd)
Willie Mays, 1955: 51 HRs (1st), 127 RBI (2nd), 122 runs (3rd), 24 SBs (3rd)
George Sisler, 1920: 19 HRs (2nd), 123 RBI (T-2nd), 136 runs (3rd), 42 SBs (3rd) (Cassavell - mlb.com - 8/18/2020) (Editor's note: Keep in mind that 2020 was a shortened season; the others did this over a full season.)
Tatis is only 21 years old, but he’s already threatening to make history. And he’s doing so with unrelenting spunk, as usual. Tatis has already turned heads this season for his emphatic bat flips and his daredevil baserunning. His bold 3-0 hack [and grand slam] drew headlines everywhere. But Tatis wants to make it clear he’s just playing baseball like he’s always done.
"I just see some things as a celebration,” Tatis said. “To hit a home run is really hard. So why not enjoy it when we do it? A pitcher that strikes me out and screams out, I'm like, 'Yeah, celebrate, man. Celebrate. You deserve it.' This game is hard for everyone. Why not just celebrate and have fun?"
Maybe Tatis is right. Maybe the game is hard for everyone. He sure doesn’t make it look that way. (Cassavell - mlb.com - 8/18/2020)
Oct 9, 2020: The way he plays, the way he has captivated a city and a sport, it's easy to forget that Fernando Tatis Jr. is a 21-year-old who has played all of 149 Major League games. As he’s quick to point out, there’s still room to learn, still room to grow.
"This game, every day will teach you a new lesson," Tatis said after he learned a bitter one. "I'm just going to keep getting better."
The Padres were eliminated by a 12-3 loss, swept in the NLDS by the rival Dodgers, which didn't sit right with the self-assured shortstop, who boldly proclaimed that he wanted "the big cake" at the start of the season. Tatis did darn near everything in his power to win that cake. In the regular season, he batted .277/.366/.571 with 17 homers, falling one shy of the NL lead. He overhauled his defensive game and became one of the sport's most impactful defensive players. Except Tatis wanted more than that.
"They showed it to us," Tatis said of the Dodgers. "We still need to get better in certain different areas. And we will get better. That's the thing. Now this is going to be a fun ride."
It's hard to view Tatis’ first foray into playoff baseball as anything but a success. He began the month saying, "Real players make real history in the postseason." Then he homered twice in an elimination game, becoming the youngest player to do so. Tatis batted .318/.444/.682 in the playoffs. He nearly added a third home run, but Cody Bellinger leapt and robbed him at the center-field wall in Arlington in Game 2. The Padres would lose that game by a run, and for all intents and purposes, the curtain dropped on their season.
"I'm going to remember this to all of next year," Tatis said. "I'm going to remember this feeling, what it's about. Trust me, I don't like it."
Not that Tatis, one of the Padres' hardest workers anyway, needed any extra motivation. But that work is for another day. After a grueling year, manager Jayce Tingler called on his players for a mental respite.
"Over the next couple weeks, I would just advise the guys: Go in, be a husband, be a father, a son, an uncle, a brother, and go invest in some of that time," Tingler said. "Because they sank a lot of time for the team, for the organization."
For Tatis, that means a return to his native Dominican Republic, a well-deserved breather after a brilliant second season.
"It's time to go to the D.R., chill on the beach," Tatis said. "I'm just still kind of sad of how short we ended the season. I know we were capable of more. But I'm just grateful for what we have learned this year, all we went through. And just looking forward to starting it all over again." (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - Oct 9, 2020)
In 2020, Machado finished third in the NL MVP voting, behind Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts. Tatis Jr. finished fourth.
Dec. 2020: THE name in the sports drink game — Gatorade — added the First-Team All-MLB shortstop to their lineup of sponsored athletes. He’s partnering with them just in time to be one of their faces for their new brand, BOLT24, that came out in December.
Jan 28, 2021: Fernando Tatis Jr. has added yet another accolade in his ascent to superstardom.
The electrifying Padres shortstop was announced as Topps' No. 1 card signifying his presence as one of the sport's preeminent stars. Tatis joins a list of superstars that includes Mike Trout, Ronald Acuña Jr., Aaron Judge and Kris Bryant who have earned that honor over the past five seasons.
In Topps' yearly release, Card No. 1 has always signified a supremely important card in the set. Since 2016, Topps has collected a community vote to decide the top spot. Trout is the only player to have won that vote twice, in '16 and '20. (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - Jan 28, 2021)
May 2, 2021: Tatis became the first player in MLB history with 40 homers and 30 steals through his first 162 games.
An ascendant superstar himself, Fernando Jr. keeps a sharp eye on greats in other sports—how they comport themselves, how they handle pressure, how they tune out the noise. Tatis watches LeBron James regularly. He also follows a handful of European soccer stars closely on Instagram.
Two weeks ago, Tatis was asked which superstar he chooses to use as an example for how best to handle his newfound fame and attention. Tatis steered the conversation. There's really only one professional athlete who he takes his cues from. And while this athlete had a nice 11-year career in the big leagues, no one would call him a superstar.
"There's a lot of great examples out there, but my guy to go to is always my dad," Tatis said. "He's the guy that's going to bring me down. He's going to lift me up. He's going tell me the right thing to do. I feel like that's been one of the biggest keys for my success." Tatis’ success is showing no signs of abating. Few baseball players in history have had as much of it at such a young age. Entering play on Father’s Day 2021, Tatis hasn't even played 200 Major League games.
He already has 61 homers (the fastest in history to that mark), and is among the league leaders in homers, RBI and OPS. Tatis is the emerging face of baseball, and the first person to grasp that possibility was Fernando Tatis Sr., who watched his son dominate at every level, despite the fact that he hadn't yet grown into his big league frame.
"From the beginning, no doubt, I knew," Tatis Sr. said. "When he was 14, nobody believed what I was saying about him, that he's going to be a superstar, because he was so skinny, and he just doesn't have the height like all the other players that were around him. Everyone was taller. I was like: 'It don't matter.' That's going to be the kid that's going to be a superstar, because I saw the things that he's been doing from when he was playing in the Little Leagues. No one is playing like him. He can run, he can hit, he can field. He knows how to play the game, and he's smart. From that moment, I realized."
No, that wasn't any fatherly bias talking. Tatis Sr. was seeing perfectly clearly, even if much of the baseball world didn't. Tatis Jr. was unranked as a prospect in the White Sox system when the Padres acquired him before the 2016 Trade Deadline.
Five years later, Tatis Jr. has captivated a city and a sport, and he's the owner of a brand new 14-year contract extension, the longest in baseball history. On June 17, 2021, he launched his 22nd home run in front of a packed Petco Park, and the place went bonkers. Fans chanted "MVP" for several minutes after Tatis Jr. bat-flipped, stutter-stepped and donned the Padres’ “Swag Chain.” (Cassavell - mlb.com - 6/20/2021)
"You know what I see? I see a young kid who put a lot of hard work in since he was 7, 8 years old, and now he's living the results. So I feel very emotional, and it makes me feel proud," said Fernando, Sr.
Regarding his father’s baseball career, Tatis Jr. mostly remembers his tenure with the Mets from 2008-10. All those days that a young Tatis Jr. spent on the field and in the clubhouse—evidently, he was paying close attention. "He was an example of how to manage myself in every single situation," Tatis Jr. said. "I had that example right in front of me, since I was a kid. I've been learning it from a young age, and now here we are."
That's true through the good times and the bad. Tatis Jr. struggled to start the 2021 season, and then he spent 10 days on the injured list with a partially dislocated left shoulder. To an extent, Tatis Jr. was feeling the burdens of a record-setting contract extension and the expectations that come along with it. His saving grace during that time? Nightly phone calls with his dad. Tatis Sr. even made a trip from his home in the Dominican Republic to San Diego.
One theme: "You have to have some fun, because you really have to enjoy whatever you're doing. It doesn't own you. You love it. So just have fun. It's a game. That's what it's all about."
Have some fun? Oh man, is Tatis Jr. ever having some fun. It's hard to envision a baseball player having more fun—whether he's bat-flipping or dancing in the dugout or stutter-stepping around third base. Where does that come from? His dad had an idea. The culture of baseball, he says, is shifting toward self-expression, and Tatis Sr. raved about how much he enjoys watching Ronald Acuña Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. among the other young stars in the game. "All of the young guys that we have right now in the big leagues, it makes you feel better every single game that you watch," Tatis Sr. said.
Still, it feels like it's Tatis Jr. leading that charge, pushing the sport's boundaries and unwritten rules. There might be an organic foundation for his doing so. The Tatis family is a competitive bunch. They often play stickball at their home in San Pedro de Macoris. This offseason, a video surfaced of a family stickball game, with Tatis Sr., at 46, launching a homer into a neighbor's yard, taking two steps and raising a pair of peace signs.
Evidently, that's been the norm at the Tatis household for years. "If we put some cameras around the house, and we showed the people some of the things we do, we'd be rich," Tatis Sr. cracked. "We do a lot of things there and we have a lot of fun, and we just enjoy every single day that we have together."
And that's ultimately the bond between Jr. and Sr. and the entire Tatis family—his mother María, his brothers Joshua, Elijah and Daniel and his sister María. They don't often get to spend time together. They're a busy family, after all. Elijah is a prospect in the White Sox system. But when the Tatis family does get together, it's a party from the start.
“It's just so important for us when we get together,” Tatis Sr. said. “Whether it's in the Dominican or in the U.S., it's just a very happy moment for us. We just enjoy it, every single moment that we are together. Family is everything. We've shown him that from the beginning. Family is everything in our life."
Tatis Jr. got the message. "It's the biggest part of my success,” he said. A family man through and through. Like father, like son. (Cassavell - mlb.com - 6/20/2021)
July 1, 2021: Baseball fans know how good Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is. He will be the starting shortstop for the National League at the All-Star Game at Coors Field on July 13. In fact, he was the NL’s leading vote getter for the Midsummer Classic.
Tatis, who will make his first All-Star appearance, will become the first Padres player to make an All-Star start after being voted in since right fielder Tony Gwynn in 1998. Wil Myers was the last Padre player to start the game, but he did so as the manager’s choice at designated hitter in 2016. Gwynn also was voted to be an All-Star starter in 1999 but did not play because of injury.
July 2021: Tatis was chosen to represent the Padres in the All-Star Game.
July 14, 2021: Fernando Tatis Jr.'s remarkable journey reached its first All-Star Game. Then, that incredible journey got a night all to itself.
"Tatis: The Rise of El Niño" debuted as an MLB Network Presents documentary. Presented by Gatorade, the documentary dives deep into the journey of the Padres' superstar shortstop—from his upbringing in the Dominican Republic, to his ascent to stardom, to his close relationship with his family.
The film features interviews done over the past year with Tatis and a handful of those who are closest to him, a contingent that includes his father, Fernando Tatis Sr., and his brother, Elijah, currently a prospect in the White Sox's system. Likewise, it includes Padres third baseman Manny Machado, manager Jayce Tingler and general manager A.J. Preller.
Also offering commentary are several notable baseball figures, including legends Pedro Martinez and Alex Rodriguez, who give glowing reviews of the way Tatis plays—noting the impact it could have on the sport moving forward.
"Tall, good looking, energetic . . . this is a unique player," Martinez says in the trailer. Added Rodriguez: "I am a ginormous fan of what he's doing, and I could not be more excited for the game of baseball."
The documentary is slated to air following a flat-out remarkable first half from the Padres shortstop. His 1.020 OPS leads the National League, as do his 28 homers and 20 steals. No player has finished atop his league in both home runs and steals since Chuck Klein in 1932. As such, it’s easy to see why Tatis becomes only the second active player to be chronicled in the MLB Network Presents series, joining Mike Trout, who was profiled in the 2017 film, "Mike Trout: Millville to MLB."
The Tatis documentary takes a similar tack, exploring Tatis' life through his past, present and bright future.
The film blends footage of Tatis' childhood and his life growing up in San Pedro de Macorís alongside footage of his professional exploits. It delves into key turning points in his career, notably his trade from the White Sox to the Padres in 2016 and the 14-year contract extension he would sign five years later. But the documentary dives deeper than merely Tatis' biggest moments. It takes a look at Tatis the person and his remarkably affable and down-to-earth personality.
"He's becoming the face of baseball," said Padres broadcaster Mark Grant, who offered his own thoughts throughout the film. "And I hope it's for a long time." (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - July 14, 2021)
Oct 1, 2021: At age 22, Fernando Tatis Jr. has accomplished an awful lot as a ballplayer. He'll complete his first full, qualifying 162-game season in the big leagues. It has been quite a roller coaster for Tatis. He signed a 14-year mega-contract. He persevered through multiple shoulder injuries. He posted MVP-caliber numbers. He switched positions. He endured a late-season collapse that saw the Padres plummet from playoff contention.
"A really long year," Tatis said with a laugh. "I'm just really proud of myself, how I've held myself accountable, going through all the struggles I went through this year."
As the Padres opened their final regular-season series of the year, Tatis met with media members to recap all aspects of his 2021 campaign—from his balky shoulder to his positional preference to his chase for the National League MVP.
Here are the highlights: Tatis would prefer to avoid surgery.
On at least four occasions this year, Tatis has suffered a partial dislocation of his left shoulder. With each of those dislocations, a further dislocation becomes more likely. Tatis could solve that issue with shoulder surgery that would require a four to six months of recovery time. But, Tatis reiterated his preference to avoid surgery entirely.
"We'll have a sit down with [general manager A.J. Preller] and the doctors, but I feel like everybody's in a positive way with not taking the surgery,” Tatis said. “But we'll see. I feel like I'm in a great spot. My shoulder is in a great spot. I feel very secure with where I'm at right now." Presently, Tatis has is doing regular strengthening exercises on that shoulder, and the Padres have reiterated how pleased they are with its current state. That said, they've also been very cautious with Tatis, having moved him to the outfield in August in an effort to avoid further injury.
Tatis is a shortstop. But he played 24 games in the outfield in August and September, with the team believing his shoulder was at lower risk there. (Less action, more time to make decisions.) Aside from one very costly error in St. Louis, Tatis was solid defensively in the outfield.
Considering some of his early season struggles at shortstop, it raised questions about whether Tatis might be best suited as an outfielder in the long-term.
"I feel like me and A.J. have already put that conversation down," Tatis said. "He signed a shortstop, and he's going to have a shortstop. That's the plan so far. I'm not planning on moving for a very long time from there."
Sounds like Tatis and the Padres are on the same page. They view Tatis as a much better shortstop than his National League-leading 21 errors would indicate. They cite his range and the fact that most of his errors came early in the year. Indeed, Tatis has been much steadier defensively as the season has progressed.
"I anticipate him going into the offseason preparing to play shortstop," Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.
Tatis was asked to make his own MVP case. Clearly, he wasn't all that interested in doing so.
After giving a trademark laugh, Tatis said, "I feel like the numbers will just speak for themselves -- what I did this year with the passion I did it with."
Indeed, the numbers speak volumes. Tatis leads the National League with 42 homers, and he has been worth 6.6 bWAR, ranking second behind only Washington's Juan Soto. He entered play with a slash line of .281/.365/.614—patently absurd for a primary shortstop who also swiped 25 bags (and would've had more if he hadn't cut back on the basepaths to preserve his shoulder).
“I know my opinion on it,” Tingler said. “He has been the most valuable player in the league. Missing quite a few games with IL stints and still having the numbers, the production, the special type of player that he is -- to even be mentioned in the top three, and quite frankly should and could win the MVP, I think that speaks to his talent and ability.”
‘A dagger to the heart’
When Tatis dislocated his shoulder sliding into third base on July 30, the Padres led the NL Wild Card race by 5 1/2 games and were squarely in the mix for the division title. Turns out, that day -- the very same day that the Padres failed to add starting pitching at the Trade Deadline -- marked the beginning of the end.
Have the latest news, ticket information, and more from the Padres and MLB delivered right to your inbox. "It's been really hard," Tatis said. "Us not making the playoffs, it was just a dagger straight to the heart, especially with the type of team we had."
To cap his interview, Tatis made one thing clear. By now, he's a 40-home run hitter. He’s almost certain to become the team’s first NL home run king since Fred McGriff in 1992. He could become the first Padre to win an MVP Award since Ken Caminiti in 1996. So what's the next thing he wants to accomplish?
"A World Series," Tatis said. "The ultimate goal. That's the one at the top. That's the one that great players reach." (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - Oct 1, 2021)
Nov 2021: Fernando Tatis Jr. is not an MVP yet. He finished third in voting for the National League MVP Award. The Phillies' Bryce Harper came in first place, with the Nationals' Juan Soto in second.
2021 Season: Key Stats: .282 avg., .364 OBP, .611 SLG, 42 HRs, 97 RBIs, 99 runs, 25 steals, 62 walks, 153 strikeouts (130 games, 546 plate appearances)
STAT TO NOTE—12.8. That's Tatis’ barrels per plate appearance, tops in the Majors in 2021. It helped Tatis lead the NL with 42 homers and 11.38 at-bats per homer, finish second with a .611 slugging percentage and third with a .978 OPS. Tatis also led the NL in average exit velocity (93.9) and hard-hit percentage (55.6). To put things in historical perspective, Tatis’ 11.38 at-bats per homer ranks behind only Greg Vaughn (11.31 in 1998) in Padres history.
TRENDING Up — Tatis’ eventful 2021 began with the young shortstop unveiled in February as the cover athlete on MLB The Show. He promptly signed a $340 million contract shortly after arriving for spring training, making him — at the age of 22 — the highest-paid shortstop ever until Francisco Lindor signed a $341 million deal ahead of opening day. As exciting as all that was, the 2021 season began with trepidation as Tatis sustained the first of five shoulder dislocations in a Cactus League game. Tatis still deemed himself healthy to start the season, revealing it was a situation he’d been managing since a minor leaguer, but all of San Diego gasped when he crumpled to the plate in April after a violent swing in Game 5.
But Tatis homered after a 10-day stint on the injured list, proceeded to become the first player in MLB history to homer five times and swipe two bases in a road series later that month in Los Angeles, log the first three-homer game of his career on June 24 and pen a .286/.364/.656 batting line en route to being the first Padre voted into the All-Star Game’s starting lineup since Tony Gwynn in 1999.
Of course, Tatis didn’t get to the All-Star break before spending another stretch on the shelf after testing positive for COVID-19 in May and exiting a game in June with another shoulder scare. That incident only cost Tatis one game. The next, sustained on a slide into third base, sent him to the injured list for 13 games and opened up the idea of protecting Tatis’ balky left shoulder by moving him to the outfield. Tatis ultimately played 20 games in right field and seven in center before returning to shortstop for most of the final three weeks of the season. Despite playing in just 130 games, Tatis’ 42 homers were the most in the NL by four (Adam Duvall hit 38) and eight shy of Vaughn’s franchise record of 50 in 1998.
Tatis led the NL with 22 errors at shortstop but still paced the league with a 7.3 WAR, according to baseball-reference.com, topping the likes of Juan Soto (6.8), Bryce Harper (6.5) and Bryan Reynolds (6.5). The youngest player to ever log 30 doubles, 40 homers and 25 steals in a season, Tatis saw his MVP case likely take a hit when the Padres’ collapse cost them a playoff spot (the dugout dust-up with Manny Machado also wasn’t a good look). He still finished third in NL MVP voting behind Harper and Soto, one spot better than he did in 2020. (JEFF SANDERS - FEB. 3, 2022)
July 2, 2015: Tatis, Jr. signed with the White Sox for $700,000, via scout Miguel Peguero.
“The way he carried himself was impressive,” said Padres GM A.J. Preller, who first scouted Tatis with the Rangers. “He was just a good baseball player. He had a feel for the game. You get around him and his presence is pretty impressive for such a young kid.”
June 4, 2016: The Padres traded P James Shields and cash ($825,000) to the White Sox. In return, they received Erik Johnson and 3B Fernando Tatis Jr.
- Feb 17, 2021: Tatis and the Padres agreed to a 14-year contract worth $340 million, Tatis' contract is somewhat backloaded. He will make a total of $24 million over the next four years—the years he was already under team control in San Diego. That contract escalates to $20 million per year in 2025-26; $25 million in '27-28; and $36 million thereafter.