Fernando Tatis Jr. won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award on Sunday.
Sure, it’s not official. There are still another six weeks left in MLB’s regular season.
Still, it was hard to see what the San Diego superstar did and not think he’s the best player in the NL. Heck, in all of baseball.
Yes, better than Shohei Otanti and Vlad Guerrero Jr. Without question, they are great players. But they are not Tatis Jr.
Playing in his first major-league game in the outfield against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tatis Jr., the All-Star shortstop, belted two home runs.
He was the leadoff hitter and played right field in the Padres’ much-needed 8-2 victory. The game before, they were no-hit. Tatis Jr. has been so spectacular this season, it’s hard to imagine that rookie D-Back starter Tyler Gilbert would have hurled a no-no in his first major league start if Tatis Jr. were in the lineup.
On Sunday, Tatis went 4-for-5 with three runs scored, four RBI, and two homers. On the season, he’s batting .298 with 33 HR and 74 RBI in just 89 games. Currently, he leads the NL in HRs, stolen bases (23), slugging, and OPS.
In 2020, Tatis finished fourth in the MVP voting.
For sure, that will change. And he will show his worth when it comes to winning as well. He helps the Padres win and doesn’t just put up empty numbers.
Sunday was another example of that.
And so much for the position switch that might hurt him. Some thought moving from shortstop to outfield he might lose focus at the plate because he’s worried about making plays in uncharted waters.
The bona fide star is just that.
His position in the field simply doesn’t matter.
The Padres fully understand that they need their best player in the lineup to have a chance to compete for a championship come October.
They have had a ton of injuries this season. Fifteen players have been on the Injured List thus far. And when Tatis was out of the lineup, the Pods nosedived in the NL West standings.
Before Superman showed up on Sunday, Tatis had been on the IL since July 31 after partially dislocating his left shoulder for the third time this season.
Most would have called it a season after the first time, maybe had surgery.
Not Tatis. The dude came back in less than two weeks the first time he was injured this season. On April 5 against the San Francisco Giants, he partially dislocated his left shoulder with a violent swing. At the time, and how it appeared on video, many thought he might be lost for two months at a minimum. Worse, that he might need surgery.
On June 19 against the Cincinnati Reds, he re-injured that same shoulder diving for a ball. He came out of the game and missed the next game, too.
Did we mention that in May, Tatis also missed eight games after testing positive with COVID? It’s been that kind of season. But when he’s been in the lineup, Tatis has been mad productive.
That’s why the idea to move him was met with raised eyebrows. Why mess with the flow of a star shortstop. Many thought the Padres were making a mistake.
But Tatis was open to the idea. San Diego’s goal is to keep him healthy and in the lineup for the rest of the season.
The shortstop position is so hard and a player is involved in the action a lot. There’s always a chance of getting hurt diving for a ball or tagging runners out on the bases.
But the outfield is a different story.
On most baseball teams, especially Little League, the worst fielder was shipped out to right field. The hope was always that not a lot of action would come that way.
Tatis’ first day at the new office in right was pretty routine, chill. He only made routine plays. Just as the Padres had envisioned.
The Padres have hung in the postseason race without Tatis Jr., but they need him to be back to secure a spot. The Phillies, Mets, and Braves are all lurking.
The same goes for other names being thrown around as possible NL MVP candidates. Save it. As long as Tatis Jr. plays, it’s in the bag.