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Tatis Jr. on hitting leadoff: ‘I like it’

@AJCassavell
April 18, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Fernando Tatis Jr. is one of the Padres' best on-base weapons, and he’s one of their most exciting, aggressive baserunners. He's a seemingly natural fit at the top of the order. In Thursday’s 4-1 series-opening loss to the Reds, that’s precisely where the 20-year-old phenom was hitting.

SAN DIEGO -- Fernando Tatis Jr. is one of the Padres' best on-base weapons, and he’s one of their most exciting, aggressive baserunners. He's a seemingly natural fit at the top of the order.

In Thursday’s 4-1 series-opening loss to the Reds, that’s precisely where the 20-year-old phenom was hitting. Tatis, who went 2-for-4 with two singles, became the second-youngest leadoff man in Padres history, behind only Roberto Alomar during the 1988 season.

"Really good players can hit in any spot in the order," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He's going to be good wherever you stick him. In Fernando's case, we think he's got a skill set that can play very nicely [in the leadoff spot]."

Easy to see why. Tatis posted a .358 career on-base percentage in the Minors, and he has a .347 OBP through 18 games this year. He also boasts elite speed, though he's only swiped one bag thus far in his rookie campaign.

Tatis has plenty of experience in the leadoff spot, as well. Last season when he struggled to adjust at Double-A San Antonio, he was moved to the top spot, and he thrived instantly.

"I like it," Tatis said. "I like hitting first. Hopefully I can do the same job I did in the Minor Leagues here."

When the Padres promoted Tatis before Opening Day, they envisioned an acclimation period in which he'd hit toward the bottom of the lineup while he adjusted to the big leagues. Evidently, the learning curve wasn’t all that steep. He was promoted to the top spot in the order after three weeks.

“We knew that he'd thrived in that spot before,” Green said. “We'd just kind of been patient, left him alone sitting around that six hole. We got to the point where we felt like he was our best catalyst at the top, so let's go with our best.”

Padres leadoff men were hitting .171/.232/.303 entering play Thursday. It's unclear how long Tatis will stick in that spot, especially with Manuel Margot having put forth some solid numbers at No. 1 this year.

Ultimately, Tatis might project better at No. 2, where he'll get a few more RBI opportunities while still being useful as an on-base/speed weapon.

For now, he's one of the youngest leadoff men in recent memory. In this decade, only Juan Soto, Mike Trout and Jurickson Profar were younger than Tatis when they started games in the top spot in a batting order.

But Tatis -- who owns a .925 OPS, five home runs, and the second-most defensive runs saved among shortstops -- hasn't been fazed by any challenges thus far.

"We appreciate the demeanor with which he's gone through every day and every at-bat," Green said. "They've not all been perfect at-bats. That's not going to happen. But there's resilient baseball in him, and as long as that's the case, you feel like whatever you throw at him, he's going to be fine."

Added Tatis: "It's going to be the same thing. Just a different spot."

The Padres, of course, would be just fine with more of the same.

Noteworthy

• Wil Myers was out of the lineup Thursday as he battles a stomach bug, although Green noted that he would likely be available to pinch-hit. The Padres left fielder homered in both games against the Rockies earlier this week.

• Triple-A infielder Esteban Quiroz landed on the seven-day injured list on Thursday with a mild hamstring strain. Quiroz was off to a nice start with a .279/.418/.442 slash line for El Paso, while Padres second basemen have combined to hit .148 this season -- the worst mark in the National League. A lefty hitter, Quiroz could've fit in as a platoon complement for Luis Urias and Ian Kinsler.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.