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In today’s version of Major League Baseball, the manipulation of service time with the sport’s top prospects is essentially an expectation.
Rather than cheering for the future of the franchise on opening day, fans are instead asked to wait for that sweet spot in late April when their team gets another year of control over a player for the low, low price of a few weeks in the minors. It’s a system that incentivizes not putting your best players immediately on the field, and a point of contention for players and fans year after year.
It’s a subpar system that will hopefully be addressed during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement, but, for now, it’s what we’ve got.
So you can understand how pleasant of a surprise it is to see the San Diego Padres buck the system and use the increasingly rare tactic of promoting the top talent in their system to the big leagues as early as possible.
Padres add Fernando Tatis Jr. to opening day roster
News broke Tuesday that the Padres will open their season with shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. on the major league roster.
Fernando Tatis Jr. has made the team.#Padres believe he's ready and makes them the best possible team.
— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) March 27, 2019
Source: Fernando Tatis Jr. will be on the Padres’ Opening Day roster. If any GM was going to do something like this, A.J. Preller seemed like the one.
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) March 27, 2019
Sources confirm that Fernando Tatis Jr., the No. 2 prospect in baseball, will indeed be promoted before Opening Day. @dennistlin had the news first. The Padres have a huge amount of young talent on their OD roster. Forget service time considerations -- they want to win now.
— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) March 27, 2019
Tatis joins an extremely promising infield already headlined by Manny Machado, who moved from shortstop back to third base this offseason to basically make room for Tatis. Yes, Tatis is good enough to make a guy who just signed a $300 million contract change positions.
Also in the infield are first baseman Eric Hosmer, who signed an eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres two winters ago and second baseman Ian Kinsler, who signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team this offseason.
Fellow top prospect Luis Urias is additionally in the mix. Urias, ranked as the No. 31 overall prospect with a 70 hit tool by Baseball America, was previously slated to start at shortstop on the opening day roster, but Tatis’ promotion will likely move Urias over to second and push Kinsler into more of a bench role.
Fernando Tatis Jr. scouting report
Tatis is ranked as the No. 1 shortstop prospect in Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball Prospectus. He’s also the No. 2 overall prospect, behind hitting prodigy Vlad Guerrero Jr., for those scouting services except for Law, who ranks him No. 1 overall.
Baseball America projects all five of Tatis’ tools to be above average in the majors, the rare true shortstop who can also be a middle of the order presence. The 20-year-old held his own during spring training, hitting 265/.345/.490 in 55 plate appearances, and previously hit .286/.355/.507 as a 19-year-old for Double-A San Antonio last year.
Not bad for a player the Padres got in a trade that sent James Shields to the Chicago White Sox, a roster move that now likely makes many on the South Side curse under their breath.
The Padres’ future is here
While Tatis is clearly the crown jewel of the Padres’ system, what makes the team’s farm system the envy of baseball is its depth. Along with Tatis and Urias, the Padres will also reportedly enter opening day with one of the top catching prospects in baseball in Francisco Mejia.
Additionally, Chris Paddack, one of the team’s most exciting young arms, will make his major league debut on Sunday. Acquired in a trade that sent Fernando Rodney to the Marlins, Paddack has been comically dominant in the minors to the tune of a 1.82 career ERA.
Behind Paddack, the Padres also have four other pitching prospects ranked in Baseball America's top 100. Have fun with that, NL West.
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