Few players have experienced as many ups and downs in a young career as Fernando Tatís Jr. has. He's brought much of it on himself. In the first several years of his career, he looked like he was going to be one of the most marketable, best players in the sport. He got himself a huge contract from the Padres, and he locked up some nifty endorsement deals. It seemed like he was destined to potentially be the face of baseball. But multiple motorcycle accidents and a PED suspension derailed so much of that.
Tatis became baseball's punching bag a year ago. It's hard to ignore what he took away from the San Diego Padres in 2023. Last year without Tatis, San Diego made it as deep as they've made it in the postseason since their run to the World Series in 1998, but they did it all without their franchise player. Who knows what could've been had Tatis been able to stay upright all season? I've never seen a player go from universally beloved to public enemy number one so fast. He had a lot to prove in 2023.
This will sound very strange, but PED suspensions aren't what they used to be. Anyone who believed that Fernando Tatís Jr. was damaged goods following his suspension from a year ago has been proven wrong many times over. There's definite baggage that comes with Tatis at this point, but we're talking about a 24-year-old former top prospect who is only two years removed from finishing in the top five in MVP voting. There were going to be adjustments. Tatis is no longer San Diego's franchise shortstop. He is now their franchise right fielder. And while San Diego has been one of the biggest disappointments of the baseball season, Fernando Tatís Jr. has proven himself once again to be one of the best young players in the sport.
Tatís' offensive numbers are a little bit down this season. He set a career height with home runs in 2021, hitting 42 in his age-22 season. He won't reach that number this year, but he is at the 20 home run mark, having only played 103 games so far this year. After experiencing something of a skid to start the second half, Tatis is going through one of the best stretches of his career. Over the last eight games, he's batting .419 with an OPS well over 1.000.
Tatis has always been a remarkable athlete, but the Padres elected to move him to right field this season after signing Xander Bogaerts to a long-term deal. They also have Ha-Seong Kim, a utility man who can play an elite shortstop for them. Tatis moved to right field, and he's been arguably the best right fielder in baseball this season. His 21 defensive runs saved ranks first in all of baseball. Not first among right fielders, first in all of baseball. This is the first year he's ever played right field. We can't overlook this. That's an incredible statistic.
Tatis missed the first month of the season as he was completing his PED suspension. If not for that, he would probably be in the thick of the NL MVP conversation. I can't call what happened to him in 2022 legacy destroying, but it's definitely something that will have an impact on his legacy long-term. With that said, we've seen players, especially players of Tatis' caliber, come back from much worse. It feels like he's lived a lifetime in his last several years but remains a Hall of Fame talent. He's the least of the Padres' concerns.