It's not the news you want to hear less than a week into the season, whether you're the one who drafted him or not.
An inarguable top-five talent and the first overall pick in some Rotisserie leagues is now contending with a shoulder subluxation. It happened on an extended follow-through while striking out in the third inning against the Giants on Monday. Fernando Tatis immediately crumpled to the ground, favoring his left arm.
A subluxation, for those without a medical dictionary handy, is a partial dislocation, and for a ball-and-socket joint like the shoulder, there can be some collateral damage. In this case, that damage has taken the form of a slight labral tear in his left shoulder. The Padres say he'll try to play through it and are even hoping for a minimal IL stay, but a recurrence would likely result in season-ending surgery.
Bottom line is that even if Tatis comes back, you can't feel confident in him sticking around. You could try trading him, perhaps, for 50 cents on the dollar, but particularly in shallower leagues, what's the good in that? You're better off crossing your fingers for good health a higher-impact outcome than settling for something not unlike what you could scrounge up on the waiver wire.
The better bet is to invest in a backup plan that offers some hope of approximating some generic-brand version of his production.
Let's start with Ha-seong Kim, the player who would likely replace Tatis in San Diego. He arrived to great fanfare after starring in South Korea but became an ill-fitting part once the NL nixed the DH. His transition to the majors has been a slow one, judging by him going 7 for 42 (.167) with no extra-base hits and 15 strikeouts in spring training, but that's not uncommon for players from the Far East who have to adapt to higher velocities and a different style of play overall. More reps can only do him good, and you need only look at his KBO numbers to know there's upside in there.
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It's also possible, particularly with Trent Grisham on the mend, that Jurickson Profar would claim most of Tatis' at-bats, taking over at second base while shifting Jake Cronenworth to shortstop. Profar has had an up-and-down career, but he performed at a near 20-20 pace during the pandemic-shortened season. Obviously, steals are part of what you'd be looking to replace with Tatis.
Looking beyond the Padres, here are some potential replacements at shortstop:
Paul DeJong SS
STL St. Louis • #11 • Age: 27
MIN Minnesota • #11 • Age: 27
TB Tampa Bay • #5 • Age: 20
CLE Cleveland • #60 • Age: 22
Chris Taylor CF
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #3 • Age: 30
Bobby Witt SS
KC Kansas City • #7 • Age: 20
Miguel Rojas SS
MIA Miami • #19 • Age: 32
ARI Arizona • #2 • Age: 21
If you're hoping for a miracle in the event you lose Tatis, Wander Franco might be your best hope. He may be only 10 days or so away from debuting, and as the top prospect in baseball, there's a chance he could deliver a stud outcome right away. Bobby Witt is worth rostering in the same vein, though the wait for him figures to be longer given how little minor-league experience he has. If you're really in a pinch in a deeper league, stashing away Nico Hoerner or Jeter Downs for later isn't such a bad idea either.
Interest in Andres Gimenez has cooled because of a slow start, but he still projects for a healthy stolen base total with a possibility for some modest pop. Jorge Polanco should be an all-around serviceable hitter, but without much speed. Paul DeJong remains a good bet for power.
OK, so slim pickings there, but what if you're just hoping to approximate Tatis' production at any position? It's still a tall task, but the list of candidates is longer.
C.J. Cron 1B
COL Colorado • #25 • Age: 31
Nick Senzel CF
CIN Cincinnati • #15 • Age: 25
Justin Upton LF
LAA L.A. Angels • #10 • Age: 33
CHW Chi. White Sox • #73 • Age: 28
MIN Minnesota • #19 • Age: 23
CIN Cincinnati • #6 • Age: 24
MIA Miami • #2 • Age: 23
SEA Seattle • #20 • Age: 23
KC Kansas City • #2 • Age: 30
Nate Lowe 1B
TEX Texas • #30 • Age: 25
COL Colorado • #7 • Age: 24
Josh Rojas RF
ARI Arizona • #10 • Age: 26
Akil Baddoo LF
DET Detroit • #60 • Age: 22
Sam Hilliard CF
COL Colorado • #22 • Age: 27
Jarren Duran RF
BOS Boston • #93 • Age: 24
You should take a long, hard look at Akil Baddoo, a Rule 5 pick who just started his second straight game for the Tigers, homering in both and swiping a bag in one. He did this after hitting .325 (13 for 40) with five homers, four steals and a .460 on-base percentage in spring training. Maybe at 22, he proves to be overmatched in the long run, but if upside is the aim, he's the target.
Other pickups capable of a five-category outcome (or at least the power/speed combo) include Nick Senzel, Jazz Chisholm, Michael Taylor, Josh Rojas, Brendan Rodgers, Taylor Trammell and Sam Hilliard -- and I'd prioritize them in that order. If you're just looking for a bat, there's a chance the White Sox have really found something in Yermin Mercedes, who has collected 11 hits in his past four games. Alex Kirilloff and Jarren Duran are two players who you might consider stashing away in the hope of an eventual call-up.
Of course, you could still go the trade route in your efforts to back up Tatis, but you probably won't find many eager participants so early in the season. Maybe you can float an offer for Adalberto Mondesi. Maybe the modest production so far from Gleyber Torres, Javier Baez and Carlos Correa will allow you to pry one of them away, especially given their 2020 struggles, but that sort of play probably wouldn't work outside of shallower leagues with casual participants.
The bottom line, though, is you can make it work. The way seems fuzzy right now, but if you stay committed to corralling upside on the waiver wire, eventually a player or two will break through for you. And in the meantime, you can hope Tatis beats the odds and sticks it out through September. In the end, the best move might be not to move on from him.