Ha-Seong Kim

The San Diego Padres will be without star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for the remainder of the year, including the playoffs, after he was suspended on Friday for 80 games following a failed performance-enhancing drug test. Tatis' suspension, in combination with the offseason wrist surgery he required, means he'll go the entire 2022 season without taking a single swing at the big-league level.

While losing Tatis for the year is an unfortunate development for the Padres, it's one they've been able to weather to date thanks to the emergence of Ha-Seong Kim. Of course, Tatis' suspension ensures that the pressure will remain on Kim, now one of the Padres' most crucial players based on who he's standing in for and the lack of alternatives. What, exactly, does he bring to the table, and does he have what it takes to keep his head above water over the course of the next two-plus months?

Before we attempt to answer those questions, let's start with some background. 

Kim, 26, originally joined the Padres prior to the 2021 season on a four-year contract worth $28 million. Despite being one of the top players in the Korea Baseball Organization, he struggled to find his footing in his first season in the majors. Indeed, Kim batted just .202/.270/.352 (72 OPS+) with eight home runs and six stolen bases. It's unclear if the Padres believed he would perform much better heading into this year; when the season opened, they leaned on a timeshare that saw him split duties at shortstop with rookie C.J. Abrams, who was since traded away in the Juan Soto deal.

Regardless of how the Padres felt about Kim, CBS Sports named him San Diego's breakout player on account of his sure-handed defense up the middle and the possibility that another year in America and in the majors would help him find his groove. That confidence has since been rewarded: Kim entered Friday hitting .247/.324/.371 (101 OPS+) with six home runs and seven steals in 104 games.

Predictably, given the top-line gains, Kim has made improvements in underlying areas, too. He's walked more often this season while striking out (and swinging and missing) less often. His ball-tracking data has remained largely the same. He's not someone who stings the ball frequently; he has, however, upped his share of batted balls hit within the 10-to-30 degree window. Among players with at least 100 plate appearances, he ranked in the 14th percentile in average exit velocity, yet in the 61st percentile in "sweetspot" percentage; that's a workable combination based on what we've observed from a macro perspective, albeit a combination that will leave him dependent on hitting singles and walking.

It's not like Kim has to hit like Tatis to provide value for the Padres, either. His glove gives him a wide berth, and it's fair to call him one of the top individual defenders in the majors. His nine Outs Above Average places him 12th in the majors regardless of position according to Statcast. That number also ranks fifth among shortstops, behind Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner, Tommy Edman, and Willy Adams.  That kind of defensive value should make Kim a second-division starter, or thereabout, even if his offensive production slips below the league-average mark over the coming weeks.

Again, that's not the kind of outlook Tatis provides when he's healthy and eligible to suit up, but it's unrealistic to expect anyone else to match his star-level output. The Padres' World Series odds took a hit on Friday, there's no question about it. If they fall short on their October dreams, it won't be because Kim is wholly incapable; it'll be because of the simple truth that there's no replacing a player as good as Tatis, no matter the circumstances behind his absence.