Texas notes: Tatis Jr. standing tall with Missions

No. 8 overall prospect managing expectations with fatherly advice

Fernando Tatis Jr. started this season in a 0-for-12 slump but has three multi-hit games since for San Antonio. (Shawn E. Davis/MiLB.com)

By Troy Schulte / Special to MLB.com | April 20, 2018 10:20 AM

For now, Fernando Tatis Jr. has one thing over his (to this point) more accomplished father. 

About four inches. 

Tatis Jr., who started his first full season at Double-A San Antonio, stands 6-foot-3, possibly a whole head taller than his father, who at 5-foot-11 played 11 seasons with five teams, most notably the St. Louis Cardinals. But the youngster hasn't given his father any grief about his physical edge. 

"Yeah, I'm taller than him," Tatis said with a laugh before a recent Texas League game. "But he's the boss, so there's not much to do."

If scouts and prospect rankings are correct, though, the younger Tatis might be on his way to passing his father's Major League accomplishments as fast as he did his stature. 

Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the White Sox as a 16-year-old in 2015, Tatis was traded to the Padres along with another player for James Shields the next season. He's spent the two years since then growing into his current frame and troubling Minor League pitchers. Last year, in his first full season with the Padres, he hit .278/.379/.498 with 22 home runs, 75 RBIs and 32 stolen bases split between Class A Advanced Fort Wayne and San Antonio. 

"Of course, it was important," Tatis said of the production in his first full season in the Minors. "That's part of being 19 years old. You're still growing up, you're still developing. … I was working hard in the gym, trying to get strength and speed, both of them. And I think it came out."

The breakout season led to Tatis being ranked as the Padres' top prospect by MLB.com, the No. 2 shortstop and the No. 8 prospect overall. 

It also led to his first big league camp, where he homered in his first Spring Training game and hit .281 while sidling up to Freddy Galvis and Eric Hosmer for advice. 

"Pretty good teammates," he said. 

Not that he needed to know the ins and outs of a big league clubhouse. Tatis was 11 when his father quit playing, so he remembers quite a bit about his final years with the New York Mets. Guidance on how to play the game has come over the years, of course, but so too has advice on how to navigate the early stages of the Minor Leagues. 

"My dad just keeps it simple with me," said Tatis, whose grandfather played for about a decade in the Astros system. "He just says 'work hard, you know what to do and no matter what, have fun. Because this game is going to be tough on you, and you've got to keep it that way.'"

Tatis started this season in a 0-for-12 slump but has three multi-hit games since with one home run, two doubles and five RBIs for the Missions. 

Video: Fernando Tatis Jr. hits his first homer of the year

Some projections have him reaching the Majors next season, but Tatis said he's not focusing on the finishing line, but rather the simple advice passed along by his father. 

"Moving up, that's something you can't control," he said. "Keep playing baseball. Obviously, you have have to put some numbers up there, but also keep having fun."

In brief

Don't forget about Josh: Tatis Jr. may be the Texas League's highest-rated prospect, but teammate Josh Naylor has had perhaps the league's best start. The first baseman and outfielder, ranked as the Padres' No. 16 prospect, has two multi-homer games already this season, and his six long balls are tied for the lead in all Double-A leagues. He's hitting .395 with 15 RBIs and slugging .837, all of which either lead or rank second in the Texas League. 

Back for Moore: Andrew Moore made it look easy in the Texas League last season. The right-hander had a 2.08 ERA through five starts with 33 strikeouts for the Arkansas Travelers before being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma and, eventually, the Seattle Mariners. Moore is back in Arkansas to start 2018 and he's picked up where he left off last summer. He held teams to one combined run in his first two starts before giving up five runs in his third start, but his 26 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings lead the Texas League. He owns a 3.31 ERA and has yet to record a decision. 

Newcomer on top: Hunter Cole is in his first season with the Texas Rangers organization after being acquired from the San Francisco Giants in a trade for Sam Dyson. Cole, a four-year veteran of Double-A, has looked comfortable despite his new surroundings. He was hitting a Texas League-best .405 heading into Wednesday night's games with 15 hits, eight runs scored, seven RBIs and a .522 on-base percentage that ranks second.

Troy Schulte is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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