With Shohei Ohtani mania running wild, it’s hard for anyone to think there is a bigger star in MLB America than him.
After all, Ohtani is a two-way star the likes of which most people alive today have never seen. A unicorn, if you will. He leads the majors in home runs, with 31. And from the mound, he’s a problem, sporting a 100-mph fastball.
Yes, Ohtani is a modern day Babe Ruth.
Still, the best player in the league plays in San Diego, for the Padres.
And if you were an MLB general manager starting a team today, you’d be crazy not to pick Fernando Tatís Jr. over anybody else as the foundation of your team.
Tatís isn’t a novelty act; a sideshow, if you will.
But he is that guy, a stud. He moves the needle when he plays. He makes his team better and it’s nearly impossible to not want to see him play.
On Monday night in San Diego against the Washington Nationals, the star that is Tatís was on full display — again. The Padres’ shortstop not only hit his 27th homer this season — an absolute laser — but also robbed the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman with a leaping catch to the heavens to snag a line drive. Indeed, it was a grab suitable for framing.
Tatís is a full-blown box-office hit. Better yet, he has been for awhile, almost from Day 1 in the big leagues.
In fact, when Tatís broke into the league in 2019, most considered Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout as the best in the business.
In his first 100 games, Tatís’ stats were better than almost every player who ever played in the big leagues. He was the first player ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 20 bases in their first 100 games. That’s right. Neither Trout, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, nor Albert Pujols put up those numbers to start their careers.
In April, after playing in his 158th game, Tatís had amassed phenomenal numbers: 46 homers, 31 stolen bases, 107 RBI and a .957 OPS.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tatís is the only player in history with at least 40 homers, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases through their first 162 games.
That statistic would rank as the best for a shortstop, beating A-Rod’s 2003 season when he won the AL MVP with 47 homers. A season in which he reportedly tested positive for steroids when MLB conducted it’s survey test for PEDs.
“It’s not crazy to pick Tatís,” said Fox Sports MLB insider Jon Paul Morosi on The Odd Couple radio show Monday night on Fox Sports Radio. “There is no wrong choice here in terms of how great they are.”
On MLB Network, they did a chart of adjusted OPS plus for the best season ever for a player 23 years old and younger. “There were three photos in color and three photos in black and white,” Morsi said.
The current players were Tatís and Vlad Guerrero Jr. — both from this season — and Juan Soto from last year. Ted Williams was listed twice and Ty Cobb once. “Purely, offensively, you can say he’s better than Ohtani,” Morosi said of Tatís.
And let’s be honest. The chances of Ohtani being a two-way star his entire career just don’t seem good. At some point, the Angels will realize that you can’t allow an arm injury take his bat out of the lineup.
After five full seasons, Ruth eventually gave up the dual act and became a full-time hitter. There’s a great chance that soon Ohtani will follow that script as well.
And when that happens, it will become even more clear what a player Tatís is compared to Ohtani.
For the record, only one is batting over .300 in a season where pitchers have dominated so much that MLB had to crack down on the illegal goo pitchers had been using.
Coming into Tuesday, Tatís is batting .305. Ohtani is hitting .277. Career-wise, Tatís is batting .302 and Ohtani .271.
On Sunday, Ohtani made history. He is the first player to be an All-Star hitter and pitcher simultaneously. That’s saying a lot since the first All-Star Game was played in 1933.
That’s amazing and he deserves all the praise he gets.
But at this All-Star Game in Denver next Tuesday night, watching Tatís play short and get his rips at that plate is more than enough to recognize he’s the best player on the field. And we just might see them face each other. Wouldn’t that be something to see?