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Tatis Jr. has the tools -- all 5 of them

Padres phenom is already making plays with bat, glove, speed
@_dadler
April 15, 2019

It's only April and we're already seeing the phenomenal talent Fernando Tatis Jr. can bring to the table. The early-season highlights show it. The Padres' 20-year-old shortstop has flashed all the tools that made him MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect in baseball -- his hitting ability, his fielding ability

It's only April and we're already seeing the phenomenal talent Fernando Tatis Jr. can bring to the table. The early-season highlights show it.

The Padres' 20-year-old shortstop has flashed all the tools that made him MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect in baseball -- his hitting ability, his fielding ability and his speed. He's hit five homers in his first 16 big league games. He's running a 140 wRC+, meaning he's been 40 percent better than a league-average hitter. He's made fine defensive plays, and he's made things happen on the bases. It's exciting to watch.

Let's take a look at the skillset Tatis has put on display in San Diego.

Hitting / Power

Tatis has already hit one unique home run: his moonshot off Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco on April 8. That's Tatis' hardest-hit ball in the Majors to date, 109.0 mph off the bat. But the really interesting part is how high he hit it -- at a 45-degree launch angle.

It's not easy to hit a ball out when you hit it that high. Tatis' 45-degree homer is tied for the Padres' highest by launch angle since Statcast started tracking in 2015. There have been just 55 home runs hit across all of Major League Baseball in that time with a launch angle of 45-plus degrees... less than one quarter of one percent of home runs.

Tatis has been impacting the ball with authority -- 16.7 percent of his batted balls have qualified as "Barrels," meaning they've had optimal combinations of exit velocity and launch angle for home runs and extra-base hits. Tatis' barrel rate puts him right around the top 10 percent of Major League hitters. All five of his homers have been barreled, including long balls off Bumgarner, Zack Greinke and Alex Reyes.

He's making the right type of hard contact, too. Ten of his 12 hard-hit balls have been line drives or fly balls. Those do damage, meaning Tatis is getting the most out of his exit velocity. He's not misdirecting hard-hit balls into the ground, or popping them up. Tatis has one of the highest "air ball" rates on hard contact in MLB.

Defense / Arm

Tatis leads MLB shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved and has done an excellent job in the field so far. Here's a closer look at two plays in particular.

The first one shows his arm, which has really stood out. Judging by the throws he's made, Tatis has a cannon at short. Exhibit A: a throw he uncorked against the Cardinals on April 7, after a short hop forced him back onto the outfield grass. Tatis' arm strength: 91.2 mph. Infield throws in that 90 mph range aren't very common -- the ones that get there often come from players like Carlos Correa, or Manny Machado, or Javier Baez, or Andrelton Simmons.

On the second one, he didn't even get the out, but it's a play so impressive it'll wow you all the same. Tatis dives into the hole at short to snare David Peralta's 107.6 mph hot shot at full extension, then rises and fires an 88.3 mph throw across the diamond. Peralta, at full sprint, beats it by half a step to spoil the web gem. It's almost a shame he was safe.

Speed

Tatis was supposed to be fast, but he might be exceeding expectations here. By Statcast's baserunning metric Sprint Speed, which looks at a player's top speed in feet per second on max-effort runs, Tatis has been one of the fastest players in all of baseball in 2019.

Tatis' average sprint speed right now is 29.2 ft/sec. That's more than two full feet per second above the MLB average sprint speed (27 ft/sec), and close to the "elite" sprint speed range of 30+ ft/sec. While it's still early and the numbers could fluctuate, Tatis currently ranks as one of the top 10 fastest players by sprint speed this season, and top five in the National League.

Highest avg. sprint speed, NL players, 2019
Min. 10 competitive runs
1-T. Trevor Story (COL): 29.6 ft/sec
1-T. Garrett Hampson (COL): 29.6 ft/sec
3. Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL): 29.4 ft/sec
4-T. Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD): 29.2 ft/sec
4-T. Amed Rosario (NYM): 29.2 ft/sec
MLB avg. sprint speed = 27 ft/sec

He also has four "Bolts" already -- those are individual runs in the elite 30+ ft/sec sprint speed range. On Opening Day, for example, Tatis bunted for a hit with an elite 30.1 ft/sec sprint speed, going home-to-first in just 3.82 seconds. The next day, he scored his first run by racing second-to-home in 6.65 seconds on a single, reaching a sprint speed of 30.3 ft/sec.

That's not just speed, it's top-tier speed. And it's just one of the ways Tatis has been electric. Padres fans, and all baseball fans, have a lot to look forward to. Really, they're looking at it now.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.