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Fernando Tatis Jr. should stay in the outfield for the remainder of the season

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Many San Diego Padres fans want Fernando Tatis Jr. to return to shortstop where he’s more comfortable, but it isn’t the smart thing to do this season.

Los Angeles Angels v San Diego Padres Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Fernando Tatis Jr. is the frontrunner to win the National League Most Valuable Player award this season. Entering tonight’s series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tatis is hitting .278 with a National League leading 37 home runs. The 22-year-old already has compiled 5.9 Wins Above Replacement despite missing 30 games due to multiple left shoulder subluxations and a COVID breakout.

Most of those numbers came when Tatis was at shortstop but since he returned from the Injured List on August 15, the Padres have put him in right and center field to minimize the amount of times he could be in a situation where he could dislocate his shoulder again. However, fans have recently been clamoring for manager Jayce Tingler to put Tatis back at shortstop partly because he hasn’t been the same player offensively since he made the move to the outfield.

Here’s an example:

At shortstop this season, Tatis is hitting .293/.374/.651 with 30 home runs compared to just .258/.343/.645 with six homers in right field. People have tried to attribute Tatis’ struggles to the fact that he isn’t at his normal defensive position. However, Tatis has even said that the position change doesn’t have anything to do with his offensive struggles. When Tatis is at the plate, playing the outfield isn’t even on his mind because he’s focused on hitting the ball well off of the opposing pitcher. His thought process doesn’t change just because he isn’t playing shortstop.

Tingler and the Padres are making the right decision to keep Tatis in the outfield. It’s understandable that the first base position hasn’t been great offensively but Tatis is the Padres best player. So if San Diego wants a chance of making the postseason, they need Tatis in the lineup every day. How can Tatis be in the lineup every day? By being healthy. What’s the best way to keep Tatis healthy? Keep him in the outfield where there are fewer opportunities for him to dive and dislocate his shoulder again.

Tingler echoed these thoughts on 97.3 The Fan this morning: “The outfield situation right now is not a permanent decision [for Tatis]. We’re basing our situation on how we keep Fernando on the field and what’s best for our team right now. We’re still open to him going to SS, but right now, it’s better keeping him on the field.”

The Padres, at the beginning of Friday night, are only a game up on the Cincinnati Reds for the second wild card spot in the National League. This is with Tatis in the lineup for the majority of the season. Now imagine if San Diego has to play playoff teams the rest of the way without their almost six win player. That’s a scenario the Padres can’t afford to have happen.