Fernando Tatis Jr.’s shoulder injury and its impact on Padres, NL playoff race
The San Diego Padres might have to make a postseason run without NL MVP frontrunner Fernando Tatis Jr.
Tatis was placed on the 10-day IL over the weekend after partially dislocating his left shoulder for the third time this season. To put it in context, Tatis was hitting .292/.373/.651 with 31 home runs, 70 RBI, 23 stolen bases and a 166 wRC+. He currently leads the National League in runs scored, home runs, stolen bases, slugging percentage and OPS (1.024).
Tatis, 22, aggravated the injury on Friday night while sliding into third base against the Colorado Rockies. It’s an utterly devastating blow to the Padres, who are holding the second NL Wild Card spot, four games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds. While there’s the possibility that Tatis could return for the playoffs, should San Diego even make it, the option of season-ending surgery is “on the table” too if the injury doesn’t improve quick enough over the next 10 days.
Oh, and by the way, the Padres have also placed pitcher Chris Paddack on the IL with an oblique injury.
After missing out on landing Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, which as we know now could have also included shortstop Trea Turner, albeit for a very hefty price (the Dodgers gave up their top two prospects in that deal), the Padres certainly have to be reeling no matter what they say publicly. You know, the whole “next man up” line and everything.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is an impossible player to replace, no matter what kind of lineup tinkering you try. The fact is, San Diego is going to be in a world of trouble down the stretch without him.
The team is currently in third place in the NL West as well, 6.5 games behind the electrifying San Francisco Giants, who made a huge deadline deal of their own in landing Kris Bryant. The Padres have a combined 16 games left against the Los Angeles Dodgers (nine) and Giants (seven), so they do control their own destiny, but it certainly doesn’t feel as assured as it did a week ago.
As for the rest of the NL playoff race, this opens things up a bit, primarily for the Cincinnati Reds, who are just four games out of that second Wild Card spot. The Reds were also active during this ludicrous trade deadline, fortifying their bullpen through the acquisitions of RHP Mychal Givens, RHP Luis Cessa, and lefty Justin Wilson. Cincinnati has the worst bullpen in the majors with an ERA over five, so these were absolutely essential pieces the team needs to stay in it.
Cincinnati should be getting an offensive boost soon as well, as Nick Castellanos is working to come back from a microfracture in his right wrist. Meanwhile, Joey Votto is hitting it out of the park like a man possessed, recently homering in seven straight games, one shy of tying the record.
The St. Louis Cardinals are also hanging around at a game above .500, looking to make a run with a geriatric rotation that includes Adam Wainwright (39 years old and turning 40 at the end of the month!) and newly acquired left-handers Jon Lester (37) and J.A. Happ (38). Both Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty are nearing returns to the rotation as well, so the Tatis news certainly keeps the door open here.
It’s hard to see any other team — i.e. Philadelphia and Atlanta — really making any sort of true effort for the Wild Card. However, the NL East remains up for grabs, as the New York Mets hold just a 3.5-game lead there with plenty of injury concerns of their own.
The Padres are of course still a loaded team — adding the NL hits leader in Adam Frazier certainly didn’t hurt things. But the path to the postseason just got a whole lot tougher with a packed field and huge divisional matchups looming.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is one of the brightest young stars the game has, and baseball’s postseason would be infinitely better with him in it. He’s a gamer, somehow putting up incredible numbers with a shoulder that seems to get dislocated every other week. If surgery is what’s needed to bring him back at full strength next season, so be it — we all need him as healthy as possible for years to come. It’s likely not any consolation to Padres fans right now, but this is a team we should expect to be in the playoffs for the foreseeable future.