The Padres and Tatis’ Dilemma/East Village Times

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez – USA TODAY Sports

Shortly after Major League Baseball announced the end of the shutdown, the San Diego Padres received the grim news that their $340 million man, Fernando Tatis Jr.would be out for about three months due to a broken wrist.

Combine that injury with his chronic shoulder problems. Tatis Jr. cannot be entered anytime soon. Clearly, no one can replace one of the most talented and exciting (though risk-taking) players in the game, but help can be found within the organization.

In fact, the Padres’ new manager Bob Melvin said: “It’s obviously a success. But it gives someone else an opportunity. Until Tatis Jr. returns, the Padres have three internal options: Ha Seong Kim, Jake Cronenworth, and prospect CJ Abrams. Cronenworth and Kim provided cover during Tatis Jr.’s multiple absences last year. However, Cronenworth is more valuable in second, and Kim would be the logical first choice.

Last year, Kim actually dominated Tatis Jr. defensively in the short term. Despite Tatis Jr.’s dramatic and acrobatic moves, his defense has been suspect – FanGraphs UZR/150UZR/150, 2019 -8, 2020 2.6, 2021 -7.1. On the other hand, Kim tightened the defense considerably (UZR/150 10.6) while making several highlight plays.

However, Kim’s hitting left much to be desired as he faced big league pitchers for the first time (.202,/.270/.352 in 298 plate appearances). Power pitchers ate him alive early on, but he got better over the season. Without a doubt, this year of experience will make Kim more comfortable at home plate. Additionally, he worked with one of Korea’s top hitters, Jung-Ho Kang, during the offseason. On her first day of spring training, Kim told reporters through an interpreter that “it’s a 200% difference.” I am much more comfortable this year.

Credit: USA Today Sports

The Padres also have insurance in the form of their top prospect, CJ Abrams (the Padres’ sixth overall pick in 2019 at $5.2 million). He will have the opportunity during the shortened spring training to cause a sensation. Like Tatis Jr., the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Abrams has the athleticism and speed advantage, as well as the ability to play in multiple positions. Unlike Tatis Jr., he emphasized his willingness to play wherever the team needs him.

According to Keith Law of “The Athletic,” Abrams ranks fifth on his list of top prospects, while MLB.com has him a lower spot at sixth. In 2019 Abrams played for two teams: Fort Wayne A ball where he hit .393/436/647/1.083 and Arizona Rookie League where he hit .250/.333/.375/.708 . In 2021, playing for Double-A San Antonio AA, the fast southpaw had a .296/.363/.420/.782 slant line and stole 13 bases. Overall, he batted .343/.398/.529 in 348 plate appearances.

At all levels, Abrams has been one of the youngest players, and he is considered a hard worker who is always striving to improve. Leg injuries (a fractured left tibia and MCL sprained knee) shortened his season in San Antonio, and a bruised shoulder in the Arizona Fall League cut his time in the batting cage. His dad came to the rescue and set up an inflatable batting cage in his own backyard in Georgia. Now that spring training has finally arrived, the Padres will have Abrams focus on shortstop, while he’ll also occasionally perform reps at second and fly balls into the outfield.

Overall, the Padres have to deal with their superstar behavior, a common problem for sports teams in general that depend on a population (young men) prone to risky behavior. Most teams include clauses in their contracts prohibiting activities like riding motorcycles, and it appears Tatis’ contract included that language. However, canceling his contract was not considered an option.

Tatis says he first felt his wrist ache about a month ago. “Nothing crazy. I thought it was something we could work out,” he said. Obviously, that was not the case. Latest reports indicate that Tatis still hasn’t made a decision regarding the surgery.

According to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, the Padres will move on and look to the future (while no doubt hoping Tatis Jr. will stick to safer activities). In fact, the new director Bob Melvin recently announced that Tatis Jr.’ won’t be riding his motorcycle anytime soon.

To our knowledge, Tatis Jr. has not made an appointment to have his injured wrist surgically repaired. And what about his shoulder, which experienced four episodes of subluxation last season? Those questions will be answered as the San Diego Padres prepare for a shorter spring training session with their new manager.

Fortunately, the San Diego Padres won’t have to look very far for a shortstop as the team has three options –Ha Seong Kim, Jake Cronenworthand CJ Abrams in camp and ready to go.

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Diane Calkins

Baseball has been a part of Diane’s life ever since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and has focused on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.

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