The best laid plans, right?
Who among us wasn't tempted to invest a mid-round pick in Fernando Tatis, the presumptive best player in Fantasy whose 162-game pace last year was 52 homers and 31 steals? Who wouldn't jump at the chance to stash him away for an eventual and likely standings-altering payoff?
He could be back as early as June, they said. Some even wondered if he might make it back before Ronald Acuña, the primary challenger to Tatis' claim of best in the game, who was himself working his way back from a torn ACL.
So we drafted Tatis and waited. And then June came, and we still waited. Through the All-Star break, we waited. Through the myriad of tests and reports of slow progress, we continued to wait until that fateful day in August when he was finally cleared for a rehab assignment. A light at the end of the tunnel. A beacon in the storm. First one rehab game, then two, then three and four, the anticipation building for that long-awaited payoff, and then ... this.
Tatis has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He's suspended for the next 80 games.
Eighty games? Eighty? But that's half a season. That's beyond this season. That's 32 games next season that we'll still be without the presumptive best player in Fantasy.
So much for June.
It's a devastating development, to all who drafted Tatis and to all who planned to next year. And it's so far beyond for so many others. You think you're mad? Imagine how the guy building Tatis' real-life team feels. Or actually, you don't have to imagine, because here he is:
"It's very disappointing," president of baseball operations A.J. Preller said. "He's somebody that from the organization's standpoint we've invested time and money into. When he's on the field, he's a difference maker. You have to learn from these situations. We were hoping that from the offseason to now that there would be some maturity, and obviously with the news today, it's more of a pattern and it's something that we've got to to dig a bit more into. ... I'm sure he's very disappointed. But at the end of the day, it's one thing to say it. You've got to start showing by your actions."
A few questions probably come to mind. How? Why? When? But the biggest is probably what now?
So ... what now?
In redraft, the answer is simple: you drop him. He's done for 2022. Can't even play in the postseason, which you know has to stick in the craw of the man who just traded the bulk of his farm system for Juan Soto, no doubt anticipating that he and Tatis would form a dynamic duo to challenge the Dodgers and Mets.
In keeper and dynasty leagues, the answer is more complicated and hinges largely on the answers to these next two questions.
How does this change Tatis' outlook?
As in performance-wise. After all, he tested positive for what's known to be a performance enhancer, and when performance enhancers are linked to the game's best performer, it's certain to raise an eyebrow. Tatis says it was an honest mistake, that the steroid he tested positive for, Clostebol, is found in a medication he was using to treat ringworm. Some Web warriors have already tried to invalidate this claim, and even if they can't definitively, it's of course possible that it's merely an excuse and that Tatis was indeed using Clostebol to enhance his performance or hasten his recovery or whatever.
Nevertheless, it's his first failed test in his fourth year as a major-leaguer. There's little reason to believe he's been using all this time, and even if he has, there's little reason to believe he'd be less than a superstar without it. MLB has had its current PED policy for some time now. Most players who incur a suspension come back looking more or less the same. The exceptions are generally in the latter stages of their career and subject to natural decline anyway. Tatis is 23. Most players haven't even reached the majors by his age. I'd say performance is the least of his concerns and would still regard him as one of the top 2-3 assets in dynasty.
Where should we draft him next year?
This question is perhaps the trickiest. Of the 80 games, 32 will carry over to next year, which is about the timeline Acuña was looking at to begin this year. But with Acuña, you had the luxury of stashing him in an IL spot. Tatis will be taking up a spot on your bench. He'll have also gone more than 18 months without playing a big-league game, and of course, giving the health history of both his wrist and shoulder, it's always possible something else goes wrong, delaying his return further.
If it's me, I'm probably not considering it until the middle of Round 2. It's hard to say for sure until we actually line up the names, but that was my stance on Acuña coming into the year. He got maybe his best-case timeline, and I still think it's debatable whether it was the right call or not. Of course, I didn't end up drafting any Acuña because there were always others more eager to do so, but I've never been willing to risk a last-place finish for a possibly easier first-place finish. The risk/reward is different from drafting Tatis in the 10th round this year. The kind of players you'd be passing up for him in Round 1 or early Round 2 could themselves be the difference between winning or losing.
Of course, it's not a dilemma we should have to have, which is the infuriating part of it all. And when you consider the wrist injury wasn't suffered on the field but in a motorcycle accident, the unforced errors are piling up for what should be the best player in the game.