Erstwhile San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has been cleared to begin baseball activities following shoulder surgery and a pair of wrist surgeries, reports The Athletic. Tatis is right on schedule with his rehab work, though he is currently serving an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension and is ineligible to play until April 20.
"In terms of what our medical staff is saying, the doctors on the checkups, he's in a good place," Padres GM A.J. Preller said at the Winter Meetings last month. "I think we'll know a lot more in the next couple weeks. I think the goal as we get into January is for him to do more baseball activity. I think we'll find out more in the next two weeks and beginning of January, but he's on track to be ready for spring training."
The 24-year-old Tatis originally injured his left wrist in a motorcycle accident last offseason. He had surgery in March and a second surgery in October to further stabilize the wrist. Between wrist surgeries, Tatis was suspended in August, and he had surgery on his troublesome left shoulder in September. The shoulder sidelined him multiple times earlier in this career.
Tatis has not played in a competitive game since the end of the 2021 season and he is coming back from multiple major surgeries, so his build up and hitting progression will take some time. He is eligible to play in spring training games while suspended and the Padres surely hope Tatis can get into a few games so they can gauge his readiness, and so he can prepare for the season.
Of course, the Padres sign Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year contract this offseason, plus Ha-Seong Kim played well at shortstop last year, so it's unclear where exactly Tatis will play when he returns. He played 24 games in the outfield in 2021, and with a full infield, Tatis could move to the grass full-time. That might be the best place for him given his speed and occasionally erratic throwing.
"I've talked to him personally about position. He wants to win, that's the No. 1 thing, and we want to get him back on the field," Preller told ESPN in November. "We'll make sure he's real clear on what the expectations are, definitely get his feedback some more as we see what the options are for the roster and how he fits in. Getting him back on the field is the priority, but as we get into the next couple months, we'll get more into what position that looks like."
Tatis finished third in the NL MVP voting with a .282/.364/.611 batting line and a National League leading 42 home runs in 2021. He has produced at a superstar level since making his MLB debut in 2019 and is a career .292/.369/.596 hitter with 81 home runs and 13.6 WAR in 273 career games around injuries and the suspension.
San Diego went 89-73 last season and advanced to the NLCS, the franchise's deepest postseason run since winning their pennant-winning 1998 season. FanGraphs estimates the club's competitive balance tax payroll at $267.3 million after adding Bogaerts, Matt Carpenter, Seth Lugo, and re-signing Nick Martinez, among others. They are very serious about trying to win the franchise's first World Series title.
The Padres signed Tatis to a massive 14-year, $340 million extension in February 2021. The contract runs through 2036, his age 35 season.