Padres rookie phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. likely out for the season with back injury

Rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. will likely miss the rest of the season with a stress reaction in his lower back, San Diego Padres manager Andy Green announced on Friday.

The former top prospect landed on the 10-day injured list after hurting his back on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Tatis looked pained after fouling off a ball in the sixth inning — requiring Green and an athletic trainer to check him out — and he exited after striking out. Tatis then received a day off on Wednesday.

If this does end Tatis’ season it will be an unfortunate end to one of the most exciting rookie seasons in recent memory.

Tatis’ rookie season was one for the ages

Expectations were high for Tatis heading into the season, even if he was overshadowed by fellow Major League son Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Ranked among the top-three overall prospect by every major publication, Tatis was seen as a potential star with rare offensive ability for a shortstop.

But nobody saw him being this good this fast.

Despite being just 20, Tatis hit a blistering .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs in 372 plate appearances. And although his 29.6 percent strikeout rate was fifth-highest in baseball, he made his contact count with a 44.1 percent hard-hit rate. His sprint speed, which ranked in the 95th percentile, allowed him to leg out more hits to keep up his preposterous .410 BABIP.

And Tatis didn’t just impress with the bat; he was an all-around star. He picked up 3.2 runs of value on the bases, which is even more impressive considering the 18 hitters ranked above him all played more than him.

Tatis’ defense was more up for interpretation. Ultimate Zone Rating (-4.9) and Defensive Runs Saved (-2) both had him as a below-average defender, but he has the arm to make any play and can easily improve by cutting down on mental mistakes. Few players have the athleticism to make this many jaw-dropping plays.

Despite missing more than a month with a hamstring injury at the start of the year, Tatis still leads all rookies with 4.2 bWAR. It’s easy to dream on what he could do over a full season once he actually hits his prime.

San Diego Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr., second from right, talks with manager Andy Green, second from left, and a trainer during an at-bat as Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino stands at left during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Padres rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. will likely miss the rest of the season. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Where does this leave the Padres?

The Padres entered the season hoping to sneak into the playoffs, hence their decision to start the year with Tatis and fellow rookie stud Chris Paddack in the majors rather than manipulate their service time.

But things haven’t gone as planned. Despite going 17-13 in April, they still found themselves 2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and have been double-digit games back since June 2. They’re only 7.5 games out of the second wild card, but with Tatis done and six teams ahead of them, that seems unlikely.

Instead, the Padres will have a chance to try out other young players. Top prospect Luis Urias will get to try his hand at shortstop again, while Manny Machado could also slide back to short to give 24-year-old Ty France — who is slashing .399/.477/.770 in Triple-A El Paso — some burn at third.

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