'Nobody does that!': Look what Tatis did now

August 24th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- Against most opposing shortstops, George Springer would've had a single. Heck, the Astros' center fielder might've tried stretching his left-field bloop into a double.

is not most shortstops.

The Padres' 21-year-old phenom ranged deep into the outfield to make an unbelievable leaping catch on Sunday afternoon, robbing Springer in the eighth inning of the Padres’ 5-3 victory. It was the latest highlight-reel play for a budding superstar who has racked up quite a few of them over his first 114 career games.

“He is so freaking talented,” said Padres skipper Jayce Tingler. “I don’t know how to explain it. We've got a No. 1 NFL receiver. We've got a point guard in the NBA. We've got a world class FIFA soccer player, maybe an anchor on a four-by-four Olympic team. We're just blessed that he was born in the Dominican and grew up playing baseball.

“He's a freak. And the other thing, too, is just how driven this guy is -- to not only be a great player but driven to be a champion.”

The best example of Tatis’ championship-level mindset might be his defensive improvements. Sure, Tatis made plenty of brilliant defensive plays as a rookie last season. He also committed 18 errors, ranked fourth among all shortstops, despite playing only 83 games there.

Tatis reported to Spring Training and had a message for his coaching staff.

“I just told them I want to be great at defense,” Tatis said. “That was a big hole for me last year. This year, we turn the page around and come in with something different.”

Halfway through the season, Tatis has yet to commit an error, and he has blended that steadiness with the spectacular. He also made a diving stop on a one-hopper hit by Jose Altuve in the fifth inning and somehow managed to turn a double play on the Astros’ speedster.

Tatis went 2-for-3 with a walk, and his leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth sparked the Padres’ go-ahead rally. It was merely the latest MVP-caliber display from the Padres’ do-everything shortstop.

“That kid is a special player,” said Astros right fielder Josh Reddick. “He’s going to be a special player for a long time, and he’s doing a great job of really running this game.”

There’s a case to be made that Tatis’ eighth-inning robbery of Springer is the best defensive play of his young career. According to Statcast, the hit had a projected distance of 208 feet. Tatis' starting depth was 146 feet, and he had 4.1 seconds to cover that ground. Afterward, he admitted to initially thinking he wouldn’t make the play.

“I thought it had a little bit too much air,” Tatis said. “But I never gave up on it, obviously. Thank God for my speed. I got there.”

He got there. Not many shortstops could. But not many shortstops are Fernando Tatis Jr.