Young stars are taking over baseball, but there is one in particular playing for the San Diego Padres that is already putting historic performances at 22 years old.
He was a star from the very beginning of his career, as he slashed .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs and 16 stolen bases in just 84 games as a 20-year-old in 2019.
He was also a star during the pandemic season, 2020, slashing .277/.366 /.571 with 17 homers and 11 thefts in 59 games.
A Truly Impressive 2021
His best piece of work came during the 2021 campaign: in a season in which he suffered a shoulder subluxation early in the year, he managed to play 130 games against the doctor’s recommendation and put up a .282/.364/.611 line with 42 home runs and 25 stolen bases.
Fernando Tatis Jr.'s remarkable 2021 season is over. He batted .283/.365/.612. Despite missing 30 games, he was worth between 6-7 WAR. He's the first Padres NL home run king since Fred McGriff in 1992. What a year.
— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) October 3, 2021
He did all that while missing 32 games: imagine his numbers if he had been healthy for 162 games and not limited by his shoulder.
The scariest thing of all is that Tatis may not be close to his prime yet.
It is frequently said that baseball players hit their peak around 26 or 27, and it can last until he is 31 or 32, but that obviously depends on many things.
Every body is different, and other factors come into play, like workload, experience, mental approach, injuries, and more.
Some players hit their peak at 25; others at 30.
The “peak” is basically a combination of having accumulated learning experiences while maintaining perfect physical conditions.
To see Tatis putting up these kind of numbers as a 22-year-old is mind-blowing.
He is still not close to the age in which most athletes “peak”, and that’s a scary thought for pitchers.
The Padres’ shortstop may have a true shot at a 50-50 season if health cooperates and if he wanted to steal that many bases.
Since it’s unlikely the Padres allow him to run that much (after all, they recently signed him to a 14-year, $340 million contract), perhaps Tatis’ ceiling is closer to 50 home runs and 40 stolen bases.
That’s not too shabby, since no player in the history of the game has hit 50 home runs and stolen 40 bases in the same season.
He Still Has Room For Improvement
If his shoulder is in better shape next season, we could be in for a treat as fans.
Better yet, Tatis still has some room for improvement in other areas other than power and speed.
For example, his strikeout rates have always ranged between 28 and 29 percent as a major leaguer, if we take away his 2020 mark, 23.7 percent, due to small sample size.
He had two seasons in the minors in which there was enough data to make relevant conclusions: a 117-game Class-A stint in 2017, and 88-game stint in Double-A a year later.
His strikeout rate in 2017 was 23.9 percent, and it was 27.7 percent in Double-A in 2018.
Based on this information and on the natural learning curve most hitters experience, it’s possible to think he could lower his strikeout rate a couple of points and unlock even more potential.
He hits the ball hard frequently, is lightning quick, is extremely athletic, fearless, and has flair.
Additionally, he could stand to improve his defense at short.
If he achieves these improvements, we could be talking about a 10-win player at peak per WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
Last season was nowhere near Tatis’ peak, and he still finished third in MVP. The next five are his
— Oscar (@oterr_17) November 19, 2021
Tatis has everything working for him to be baseball’s biggest star over the next decade.