'Time to make history': Tatis' star on rapid rise

August 10th, 2020

One-hundred games in The Show can fly by … when you’re as talented and exciting as

The Padres’ budding superstar celebrated his 100th career Major League game Sunday by knocking his 30th career home run, marking the fourth straight game in which he’s gone deep. Tatis has homered six times overall in his last six contests, and he is showing off the breathtaking all-around game of an early NL MVP favorite. Indeed, it’s taken just over one season for Tatis to fulfill the vision many scouts had when they ranked him near the top of their global prospect lists; the vision of someone who might just become the biggest star baseball has to offer.

“Every time I go to the park and the game’s about to start, I tell myself: ‘It’s time to make history,’” Tatis said on Monday.

He’s doing just that. If you’re not already setting notifications for the first pitch of each Padres game, it’s not too late. Here are 10 reasons why Tatis is quickly becoming the must-see player of 2020:

  1. Tatis’ homer Sunday gave him an even 30 in his first 100 games, putting him alongside just eight other players in history who have belted at least 30 dingers in their first 100 big league contests: Mark McGwire, Cody Bellinger, Rudy York, Pete Alonso, Gary Sánchez, José Abreu, Aaron Judge and Ryan Braun.

But Tatis has even separated himself from that exclusive group: He’s the only shortstop on that list, and he is also the first player in MLB history to pair 30 homers with at least 20 steals across his first 100 games.

  1. Tatis enters Monday’s action tied with Judge for the MLB lead with eight homers. That means he’s in early contention to win the Major League home run crown, a feat only two other players have ever accomplished in their age-21 season: Eddie Mathews (1953) and Sam Crawford (1901). No one has ever led the Majors in homers at a younger age.

In fact, baseball has never really seen a player Tatis’ age slug the way he has through his first 100 games:

Second on that list in slugging? Some guy named Joe DiMaggio (.599). And the runner-up to Tatis in OPS? None other than Albert Pujols (.980).

  1. San Diego’s superstar has already left a firm imprint on his club’s record books, too. Tatis is either first or second in virtually every major offensive category when it comes to a player’s first 100 games in a Padres uniform:

Tatis ranks only behind Steve Finley (131) in hits, Gary Sheffield (.324) in average and Ryan Klesko (71) in RBIs on those Padres lists.

  1. Maybe it’s too early to say that Tatis will enjoy the Cooperstown-caliber careers of prodigious players like Mike Trout or Alex Rodriguez, but one could certainly argue that he’s off to a significant head start. Tatis shines alongside those two when comparing their first 100 career games head to head, outslugging that pair of transcendent talents by a wide margin:
  1. MLB has seen plenty of prodigious shortstops come through its ranks over the last 25 years -- from A-Rod, Nomar and Jeter in the 1990s to Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Javier Báez and many others more recently. But none of them -- and no other rookie shortstop in modern history, as a matter of fact -- has ever topped the .969 OPS that Tatis put up last year. Even that figure pales in comparison to Tatis’ start to 2020; he enters Monday leading all qualified hitters with a 1.226 OPS.
  1. Tatis’ power extends well beyond what’s expected for a shortstop. Entering Monday, he led all qualified MLB hitters with a 97.9 mph average exit velocity, per Statcast, while also tying the Dodgers' Seager for the most hard-hit (95+ mph) balls in play with 28.
  1. Even when Tatis isn’t at the plate, make sure you keep watching. While the shortstop went through some growing pains as a rookie, his arm is an absolute cannon. In fact, Tatis averaged 92 mph on “max-effort” throws (the top 10% of his sample) last year, which led all full-time MLB infielders. Tatis has already fired a couple 90+ mph throws in 2020, including a 93.5 mph strike against the Giants on July 28.
  1. We mentioned those steals above, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story on Tatis’ legs. He finished 2019 with an average sprint speed of 29.3 feet per second, placing him in the 95th percentile among more than 550 qualified position players. A sprint speed of 30 ft/sec or higher is considered the absolute elite benchmark for MLB speed, while 27 ft/sec is league average.

Tatis combines that footspeed with breathtaking instincts on the basepaths. He tagged up at third and scored on fly balls that were literally caught within feet of the infield dirt on multiple occasions during his rookie campaign, becoming the first Major League player in six years to score twice in one season on popups to an infielder. And no tag is routine when Tatis has a base in sight.

  1. Tatis has already put these tools together to become one of the Majors’ most complete players. Yes, it’s early in the 2020 season, but check the wins above replacement (WAR) leaderboards and you’ll find Tatis’ name right at the top -- both by FanGraphs’ (1.7) and Baseball-Reference’s (1.4) versions of the metric.
  1. Beyond all the numbers, Tatis’ boundless energy jumps off the screen when you tune into a Padres game. His post-homer celebration shimmy is must-watch TV, and one hardly ever catches Tatis without a smile on the field.

“There’s no question, he’s the face of this franchise,” teammate Eric Hosmer told ESPN about Tatis, “and I think he’s gonna be the face of this game very, very soon.”