Fernando Tatis Jr. ...

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen number 23 on the baseball field in a Padres uniform. A sad notion when you really think about it.

2022 was indeed a year to forget for El Niño. It’s not the year he wanted or envisioned, and it’s not the year we fans had in mind, either. From motorcycle accidents causing broken wrists to an 80-game PED suspension that was only made worse by a nearly laughable explanation involving ringworm and hair cuts.

Heck, things got so bad that even now, people in the Padres fandom have been calling for the 23-year-old, two-time MVP finalist to be traded. And while I somewhat sympathize with those who are upset with Fernando, I will tell you right now that there is no way in hell we should or can trade this kid (see the no trade clause in his contract until 2028…)

If your pursuit is a World Series Title, you don’t just need Fernando; you have to have him. When he’s on the field, he’s a top five player who has proven to provide an OPS of .940, 40 homers a year, SLUG over .580, and is the kind of player who not only takes over games but series.

So this begs the question. What can we expect from Fernando Tatis Jr. in 2023? In my opinion, we might see his best season as a major leaguer. Now I know some may be rolling their eyes, but let me state my case.

First, he should be entirely and fully recovered from his broken wrist. The shoulder that plagued him in 2021 should also be a non-factor at this point. This is most likely the healthiest version of Fernando we’ve seen since the 2020 COVID season.

Think about it, he finished the 2021 season in the top three in MVP voting with a slash line of .282/.364/.611 and OPS of .975, which was a shoulder that had the strength of pulled pork. If he can do that in a poor physical state, I’m willing to bet that total health will be even wilder.

Next, he’s returning to a lineup that is deeper and more star-studded than ever before. In years past, Fernando’s only protection in the lineup was Manny Machado.

Teams could pitch around him if they wanted. That can’t happen anymore. Tatis will now have the likes of Juan Soto and Xander Bogaerts, along with Manny, to protect him. As a result, opposing pitching staffs are going to have to throw to him. They won’t have a choice. Thus it’s more likely that Fernando will see even more pitches to hit and deposit into the Western Metal Supply Company Building.

And finally, the kid’s got something to prove. For the past year, Tatis has been the butt end of every joke around baseball, had the dirt kicked in his eyes, and just had to wear it. And no matter how hard he’s tried to block it out, you know he’s heard it. So I think in 2023, he has that preverbal “chip” on his shoulder and goes scorched earth mode. A talented player, fully healthy, a part of the deepest lineup he’s ever been in and is playing with extra motivation? Yeah, I think 2023 will be a good one for Fernando.

If I had to place a stat line down for number 23, I would go with a .287 batting average (just for those who still value the stat), on base percentage .366, a slugging percentage of .585, capped at 35 homers and, say 94 RBI.

2023 will be a big year for Fernando Tatis Jr., and we should expect big things.

Vol. 39, No. 1 - Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023

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