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The Padres are not playing around. They signed Manny Machado. They called up Chris Paddack after fewer than 180 professional innings. And now they are calling up uber-prospect Fernando Tatis for Opening Day, according to numerous media reports.
Tatis is pretty much the No. 2 prospect across the board this season, and the Fantasy profile might be even more exciting than the real-life one. He's a must-draft if you've still got one coming over the next few days, and he's an absolute must-add everywhere else. Earlier Tuesday, I called Paddack the first "potential league winner on the waiver wire", and now he's joined (and overshadowed, just a bit) by a teammate.
Tatis looks the part of a star, with a big, athletic frame and an easy swing that reminds me of a certain Rookie of the Year from a little more than a decade ago:
And that might be the kind of best-case scenario outcome you're looking for from him. Okay, not the first two years when he was a 50-steal player, but those years when he was routinely a 30-30 threat? That's what we're hoping for.
With less contact ability. This is where Tatis falls short of the Ramirez comp, as well as his fellow wunderkinds, Eloy Jimenez and Vladimir Guerrero. While they make plenty of loud contact too, both have run up really solid contact rates. Tatis, on the other hand, does have some swing-and-miss in his game, and that could be an issue early on. It's not a swing problem, so much as he is still working on his pitch recognition. That's not uncommon for even exceptionally talented young hitters, but it's also not something he's guaranteed to figure out. Especially not this year.
In this way, the better comp might be Justin Upton, who hit .250/.353/.463 with 15 homers in 108 games as a 20-year-old with one steal. There were flashes, but not dominance. Then he put together a brilliant age-21 season, in which he hit 26 homers and stole 20 bases, with a high-BABIP-fueled .300 average. Looking toward a best-case scenario, it looks a lot like that for Tatis.
Like Upton, when Tatis does make contact, good things happen. He's run up a .353 BABIP for his career over 1,200 plate appearances, and he is coming off consecutive seasons as an 18- and 19-year-old with ISOs of .220 and .221, respectively. Tatis is a good bet to develop into a 30-homer hitter in the long run, and 25 wouldn't be out of the question in 2019 with the benefit of a full season.
And while speed won't likely be his calling card in the long run as he fills out, Tatis stole 32 bases in 131 games in 2017, and then 16 more in just 88 games in 2018. You shouldn't expect 30, but 20-plus seems like a good number you can hope for.
Looking at some projection systems, they mostly back that up. Pro-rating to 150 games, you get these results:
The averages are ugly, but we can chalk some of that up to the general conservatism of projections systems, especially around really young players. Given his BABIP skills in the minors, there's room for more than that. Still, you put it all together, and it's basically what Ian Desmond did last season. And he was a top-70 overall player in Rotisserie leagues last year.
I'm not saying you should take Tatis 70th overall, but he probably shouldn't come off the board much later than Eloy Jimenez does – and that's been around 100th overall since news broke of Jimenez's record-breaking pre-MLB contract that assures him an Opening Day job. If anything, Tatis might have a more intriguing Fantasy profile thanks to the speed.
If you've already drafted and Tatis is still out there, as he is in 40 percent of CBS Fantasy leagues … One, consider yourself lucky. And two, don't let someone else grab him. If you have top waiver-wire priority, this is the guy to add.
And don't be skimpy with your FAAB dollars. In a categories league, Tatis is worth at least 30 percent of your budget; let's say 20 percent in H2H points. You might feel wary of using top waiver-wire position or a significant chunk of your FAAB budget before the season even starts, but this is the kind of player you're hoping to use it on eventually. Vlad Jr. is probably already owned, and barring some unforeseen development, we're probably not seeing another prospect get called up with this kind of potential.
As with any prospect, there's risk in Tatis' profile. He may get exposed by major-league pitching; he wouldn't be the first 20-year-old to scuffle. But the upside is clear, and it's worth buying into. Don't let someone else get a shot at it.