SAN DIEGO -- Fernando Tatis Jr. has racked up plenty of assists in his career, but none quite as exciting as this one.
The Padres superstar has been waiting to show off his cannon since his transition from shortstop to the outfield last month, and he finally got his chance in the Padres’ 8-5 victory over the Angels on Wednesday night at Petco Park.
With one out and a runner on third base, Angels catcher Max Stassi lifted a popup into right-center field. Tatis ranged to his right to make the play, then he let it fly.
His throw clocked at 97 mph. Although it arrived slightly up the first-base line, it was in plenty of time to nab Jared Walsh at the plate on one hop. According to Statcast, it was the ninth-hardest outfield assist this season and the hardest by any Padres outfielder.
Technically, it was Tatis' second assist as an outfielder, but it was his first on a direct throw. (The other came two weeks ago against the Dodgers after Tatis' throw as a center fielder was cut off and a different runner was thrown out elsewhere.) It was his first assist as a right fielder, and it kept the game scoreless before the Padres broke out for eight runs in the bottom half of the frame.
“He’s done well and adjusted very quickly out there [in the outfield],” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “That catch and throw was a big momentum swing, for sure. Tatis came up and threw a one-hop in, and got that good long hop. … It turned the momentum in our dugout after that play, for sure. I thought that was huge.”
Since mid-August, Tatis has split time between right and center field – a position switch designed to help preserve Tatis’ balky left shoulder by playing him where he’s less likely to dive on it.
Tatis has expressed a desire to return to shortstop next season. But given his otherworldly athleticism, some feel he would make a smooth transition to the outfield and that his ceiling as an outfielder is incredibly high.
Thus far, Tatis has been smooth in the outfield without any errors or glaring mistakes in 20 games there. And in case it wasn’t already clear, he’s got the arm for it.