Report: Manny Machado will accommodate Padres' top prospect with move back to third base

Manny Machado just signed the biggest free agent contract in the history of North American sports. And yet, he likely won’t ever be playing his favored position again if the San Diego Padres’ plan works out.

After spending a full year playing shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Padres’ new $300 million man has agreed to move back to third base for his San Diego tenure. The reason why: Fernando Tatis Jr., widely considered the top shortstop prospect in baseball.

That might be an unexpected development for some, but it’s definitely welcome news for those who miss Machado’s absurd web gems at third base and cringed at his defensive numbers in 2018. And it’s also telling just how highly the Padres and the rest of baseball think of Tatis.

Who is Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres’ shortstop of the future?

There aren’t many players with zero MLB service time that could force a player who just signed for nine figures to change positions, but the Padres clearly think they have one of them in Tatis.

Tatis was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a trade that sent James Shields to the South side three years ago, a roster move that will likely make any White Sox fan shudder these days. Previously considered a decent but not franchise-altering prospect, Tatis’ profile has since exploded to the point that he is universally considered one of the three best prospects in MLB entering the 2019 season.

Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball Prospectus all rank Tatis as the No. 1 shortstop prospect in baseball, and Law even goes as far as to rank him ahead of Toronto Blue Jays phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as the top prospect at any position.

The son of former MLB journeyman Fernando Tatis, the younger Tatis is considered the crown jewel of a farm system good enough to convince Machado there is a future contender in San Diego despite a 66-96 record in 2018. Tatis himself is happy to see Machado coming, calling him his favorite player for the last half-decade.

Even though he hasn’t registered a plate appearance above Double-A ball in his professional career, the 20-year-old Tatis is expected to make his debut at Petco Park sometime in 2019. Until then, another prospect will likely shoulder the load at shortstop for the big league team.

Neither Tatis nor Machado expected to start 2019 as Padres SS

The Padres’ Opening Day starter at shortstop will likely be Luis Urias, per’s AJ Cassavell.

While he isn’t the uber-prospect that Tatis is, Urias is very much in the Padres’ long-term plans. MLB Pipeline and Baseball America both rank him as the second-best second base prospect in the game, a rare offensive talent at a usually bat-light position.

Urias made his debut with the Padres last season and will almost certainly move to second base once Tatis makes his debut. Though shortstop is not Urias’ eventual position, the Padres likely figure that giving a shot to Urias at shortstop would be better for the team with Ian Kinsler also on board with a two-year contract.

The future is clear, though. Between Machado, Tatis, Urias and Eric Hosmer, there is a very promising long-term plan for the San Diego infield.

Manny Machado’s days at shortstop are likely over, for a very good reason. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Manny Machado’s days at shortstop are likely over, for a very good reason. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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