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Teen phenom Tatis goes deep in ST opener

Top prospect is youngest player in any big league camp
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Fernando Tatis Jr. is the youngest player in any big league camp this spring. During Friday's Cactus League opener, he wasted no time proving he belongs.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the game's No. 8 overall prospect, Tatis mashed an opposite-field home run in his second at-bat of Spring Training. He fell behind against Mariners right-hander Shawn Armstrong, before swatting a 1-2 fastball over the fence in the bottom of the eighth.

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Fernando Tatis Jr. is the youngest player in any big league camp this spring. During Friday's Cactus League opener, he wasted no time proving he belongs.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the game's No. 8 overall prospect, Tatis mashed an opposite-field home run in his second at-bat of Spring Training. He fell behind against Mariners right-hander Shawn Armstrong, before swatting a 1-2 fastball over the fence in the bottom of the eighth.

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The swing was smooth and easy, yet the ball jumped off his bat and carried over the right-field bullpen. Said one member of the team's front office: "That's just what he does."

The Padres didn't threaten offensively after that, and they would lose the opener, 3-2. But it was Tatis who stole the show with the team's first homer of spring.

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"I'm just trying to show off what we've got," Tatis said. "I'm trying prove to these guys that I don't care about my age, I'm just trying to make the team."

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Tatis, who turned 19 in January, is destined to start the year in the Minors, though it's possible he could earn a late-season callup. Last year, he set a franchise record with 21 homers for Class A Fort Wayne before finishing the year with Double-A San Antonio.

Many in the Padres' organization view Tatis as their shortstop of the future. The job will be open next offseason, when Freddy Galvis hits free agency. If Tatis continues his rapid ascent, it could be his position to lose.

"His demeanor's been outstanding early in camp," said Padres manager Andy Green. "I don't think he's been fazed by anything. He looks comfortable on a baseball field. ... The power is real. All you have to do is watch batting practice to know that."

It's no coincidence that Tatis has been paired with veteran hitters during BP. On Tuesday, he and fellow top prospect Luis Urias were part of a group that also featured Eric Hosmer and Chase Headley -- 18 years of experience between them.

"Guys like that, you just ask questions a lot," Tatis said. "You try to learn what focus they have and their approach."

It's an immense source of pride for Tatis that he uses the whole field to hit for both power and average. Between two levels last season, Tatis batted .278/.379/.498.

Video: Tatis Jr. is named the top Padres prospect

"I don't just want to be a pull hitter or something like that," Tatis said. "I want to hit the ball to every part of the field -- that way I can get more hits and hit more for average."

Tatis came to San Diego in the 2016 trade that sent James Shields to the White Sox. Quickly, he began to prove himself in the Padres' system, doing so as one of the youngest players everywhere he played.

Tatis has drawn early comparisons to Manny Machado, and it shows in his body type. The Padres have pumped the brakes on that comparison, however. Expectations are already lofty enough.

There are questions regarding whether Tatis will stick at shortstop. (In his five innings there Friday, the Mariners hit no balls his way.) Almost no one questions his bat.

"He's good," Green said. "And we know it."

Video: Tatis Jr. named Padres' Pipeline hitter of the year

On Friday, Tatis paired with Urias in the middle of the Padres' infield. Urias got in on the fun, launching a double off the right-center-field wall. It might not be long before the duo anchors the middle infield at Petco Park.

"They're going to push as hard as they can to be here as quick as they can," Green said. "We want them to do that. I think it's our job to tap the brakes and take our time with them if we think they need more time and seasoning. They're clearly dynamic baseball players, and we're excited to have them."

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

San Diego Padres, Fernando Tatis Jr.