Fernando Tatis Jr.’s Big Weekend

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I had several half-baked ideas in the hopper for today’s edition of the newsletter—Manuel Margot’s improved base stealing (coming later this week), Gene Tenace’s place among all-time Padres, Chris Paddack’s Saturday night resurgence, etc.—but then Fernando Tatis stole the spotlight again, combining power and speed and smarts into a walking, talking baseball deity.

On Friday: Tatis hit his 10th home run and swiped his 12th stolen base, making him just the second rookie shortstop (Nomar Garciaparra, 1997) to reach the 10-10 threshold before the All-Star Break. Of course, as it often does, Tatis’ performance comes with a positive qualifier: It took Garciaparra 63 starts to reach double digits in both homers and steals, while Tatis did it in just 44.

Tatis also drew a walk in his fifth straight game on Friday night, giving him 11 free passes in the 94 plate appearances he’s received since returning from injury on June 6. While Tatis still strikes out more often than preferable, his patience has been a surprise addition to his profile, especially considering the havoc he wreaks once on base. In June, Tatis’ 11.7 percent walk rate puts him on the first page of the National League leaderboard, just behind the likes of Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo. More patience is a team-wide trend worth keeping an eye on.

On Saturday: The main event of the weekend, Tatis went 3-for-5 with a home run, a bloop double, and an infield single. Plus, he scored from second on an infield single by Eric Hosmer, which sounds a lot more routine than it should.

The Hosmer play came in the sixth inning:

The home run was the topper, a 440-foot shot over the Padres bullpen:

On Sunday: Tatis rocketed a single into left field in the fifth inning and then turned another routine Hosmer base hit into must-see TV, scoring from first on a single that found the green acres of the right-center field gap. He added another single later and, thanks to his earlier work, made a 2-for-5 day his least productive game of the series.  

After the weekend’s statistics were tallied, Tatis had widened league leads in two categories. Per FanGraphs, Tatis’ 164 wRC+ now leads all shortstops (min. 100 PA) by 16 points, with Houston’s Alex Bregman a distant second. And by Baseball Prospectus’ baserunning metric, Tatis extended his lead over Ronald Acuña to a half a run. Both Tatis and Acuña are running away from the competition, as Acuña is a full run clear of third place’s Mallex Smith. Tatis has somehow accrued more BRR than all but three players did in all of 2018.

Here are the top five players in fWAR prorated over a full season (700 plate appearances):

1. Cody Bellinger3515.511.0
2. Joey Gallo2383.710.9
3. Mike Trout3615.210.1
4. Christian Yelich3414.59.2
5. Fernando Tatis Jr.2052.68.9

There’s Mike Trout doing Mike Trout things. There are the breakouts of the NL in Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich (part 2), both safely inside the top five. There’s Joey Gallo, who’s hit 20 homers in 238 plate appearances and ranks second in baseball in walk rate but had an extended stay on the injured list. Then there’s Tatis, who missed over a month of his own due to injury and would be receiving even more attention had that ill-advised stretch in Washington never happened. Either way, Tatis, a 20-year-old rookie, has played like one of the best players in baseball over his first 48 games in the majors.

(He did not make the NL All-Star team.)

The 20-20-20 Club

When Manny Machado connected for his 20th home run on Sunday, he became the third Padre to reach the 20-homer milestone this season, joining team leaders Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes. The last time the Padres had three players reach 20 home runs in a full season was in 2016, when Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, and Ryan Schimpf pulled it off. Before that, you’d have to go all the way back to an Adrián González-led 2007 team to find another trio of 20-HR teammates in San Diego. In between, the 2014 Padres didn’t have a single player reach 20 homers, with Yasmani Grandal leading the team with a mere 15. In 2011, San Diego’s top two home runs leaders combined for just 20—in an entire season, yes. Even 1998’s historic team had just two players topple 20 homers, with Greg Vaughn and Ken Caminiti combining for 79 round-trippers, nearly half the team’s total output. 

While the league’s homer-happy environment and a gentler Petco Park have paired to make this feat more reachable, it’s not like every team in the league has two or three 20-plus home run guys. In fact, only the Dodgers (Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson) have matched the Padres with three at 20 already. The Braves, Brewers, Mariners, Rockies, and Twins all have two, and the Angels, A’s, Cubs, Reds, and Yankees (plus the Brewers, Mariners, Rockies, and Twins) could conceivably get three players to 20 before the break, although it’d take a homer binge this week for that to happen for some of those teams. In a league where home run records are falling at a record clip, the Padres are puffing out their chest.

As for Machado, he used the month of June to recalibrate his numbers back to levels we’ve come to expect. In the month, Machado led third basemen with a 176 wRC+, well clear of Mike Moustakas in second. Machado also led all hitters with 11 June homers. On the season, he’s slashing .277/.352/.516 with a 126 wRC+. He should easily surpass 30 home runs for the fifth consecutive season and could smack 40 for the first time in his career.

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