Tatis rides championship winter into camp

Padres' No. 1 prospect determined to win roster spot

February 13th, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The offseason, for No. 1 Padres prospect, lasted all of two weeks.
"Good to be young," quipped the 20-year-old shortstop from the clubhouse at the team's Spring Training complex on Wednesday.
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Tatis, ranked No. 2 among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects, arrived at Padres camp last week, after spending nearly the entire winter playing for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Republic.
In his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, Tatis helped lead Estrellas to their first championship in more than half a century. He batted .263/.379/.488 with three homers during the regular season. Then he homered three more times -- including a walk-off shot (and a demonstrative bat flip) -- in the playoffs.
"I grew a lot as a man and a baseball player, too," Tatis said of his experience this winter. "Winning a championship for my hometown was very fun. Breaking the 51 years without winning was very special."

In more ways than one, it was an incredibly worthwhile experience for Tatis, whose father served as manager of the team. The young shortstop made up for the time he lost last summer when he missed the second half of the Double-A season with a broken bone in his left thumb.
"We ultimately want to win championships," said Padres manager Andy Green. "Him getting experience doing that is a good thing. He missed a lot of baseball last year with the thumb injury, and he got two months of really high-quality, tough competition."
Said Tatis: "Baseball players get better by playing baseball. I was there. I was learning. I was getting better."

Tatis asked the Padres for permission to play in the Caribbean Series, but he knew that request was unlikely to be granted. He's set some important goals in Peoria, after all, chief among them: "Make the team."
That was his goal last year, too, but this time it feels different.
"It's a reality now," he said. "There's a chance it might happen."
"He's got every opportunity to force our hand by the way he plays," said Green.
It still seems unlikely. Tatis has yet to receive a full season's worth of at-bats at Double-A. Service time considerations might also come into play. If the Padres wait a few weeks to promote Tatis, they'd gain an extra year of team control at the end of his rookie contract.
But that's a debate for another day. For now, Tatis is in camp, determined to prove his worthiness for the Opening Day roster.
He's also determined to disprove the notion that his strong 6-foot-3 frame might be better suited for an eventual move to third base. To some extent, Tatis has already done that. Scouts have marveled at his ability to handle the position, and the Padres remain as committed to Tatis at short as they ever have.
"Maybe in 12 years I'll move to third," a gamesome Tatis said, as he broke into a wide smile.

Urias set for shortstop work
Luis Urias -- Tatis' presumed long-term middle-infield partner -- will play shortstop primarily during the early stages of Spring Training.
"It's probably best for us to expose him to the bulk of his reps early on over there," Green said. "At second base, he's got a high comfort factor already."
Urias debuted last season and played second base exclusively with the big league club, though he's split time relatively evenly between second and short in the Minors. Urias is the projected stopgap at shortstop while the Padres wait on Tatis' arrival. With the December addition of second baseman , there's an obvious path to playing time for Urias at short.
"He's definitely one of our leading contenders to be at that spot at the start of his season," Green said, adding that Urias has entirely recovered from the left hamstring strain that sidelined him in September.

Reyes on the mend
Right fielder has recovered from offseason surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee. He was in Padres camp on Wednesday and has been fully cleared for workouts, though the club might take things slowly with the hulking 23-year-old.
"Coming back from a knee injury, we might hold him out of some running drills early," Green said. "Right now, he's cleared to do everything with us, but no reason in early February to push him too hard."
Reyes was the Padres' best hitter in the second half last season, and he finished his rookie year with a .280/.340/.498 slash line and 16 home runs in 87 games. He's set for a fierce spring competition for corner-outfield spots -- a competition that also features , and .