WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fernando Tatis, Jr. is one of the brightest future stars in the game. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, one spot behind Eloy Jimenez.
He’s a five-tool shortstop slashing .289/.359/.509 at Double-A San Antonio with 15 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 85 games. He’s bilingual, charismatic, the kind of guy who could be a face of a franchise.
And two years ago, he was property of the White Sox.
That was until they traded Tatis, who was only 17 at the time, to the Padres for James Shields. Tatis had yet to play a single game in the White Sox farm system, so it was tough to predict his future. However, speaking with Tatis before he competed in the MLB Futures Game on Sunday, the trade was definitely a shock to him.
“I was surprised. It was weird. For a kid that young to get traded, I had never heard of it. When they told me that, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’” Tatis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.
No front office is going to bat 1.000, and when it comes to Tatis, this is a trade the White Sox would love to have back.
But first, more perspective.
In June of 2016, six months before the White Sox started their rebuild, they were 29-26, a game and a half out of first place. With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a healthy Carlos Rodon anchoring their rotation, they felt that with the addition of Shields, they could compete for the division.
Unfortunately, perception didn’t meet reality. Shields struggled on the mound with the White Sox in 2016 and 2017. His numbers have improved considerably, and he could return the White Sox another prospect if he’s dealt before the trade deadline. However, it’s unlikely they’ll receive a player with the potential that Tatis has right now.
“(The trade) was about getting a good starter so they could get to the playoffs. I understood. I know this game is a business,” Tatis said.
Before the trade occurred, Tatis looked into his future and saw a day when he’d be the White Sox starting shortstop.
“Yeah, that was my goal when (White Sox director of international scouting) Marco Paddy signed me,” Tatis said. “We talked about it when I started and that was the goal.”
His goal now is to make it to the major leagues with the Padres.
“I’m pretty close. I want to keep working. When they decide to call me up, I’ll be ready.”
As for his former team, he’s impressed with the talent the White Sox have assembled.
“They’re building something special. They have really good prospects. I wish the best for them.”
You can’t help but wonder what the rebuild would look like if Tatis was along for the ride. He’s the one who got away.
If the season ended today, Javy Baez may be your National League MVP.
Of course, the season isn't ending today, only the first half of the 2018 campaign is.
He flashed his skills again over the weekend — scoring the game-winning run Friday, posting a 5-RBI game Saturday and then drove in the Cubs' first run in their 7-4 victory Sunday to close out a sweep of the Padres.
Entering the All-Star Break, Baez should be the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.
For starters, he's the best player on the best team in the league.
Thanks to a recent hot surge by the Cubs and an ugly weekend for the Brewers (who have lost 6 straight), Baez and Co. will go into the break with the best record in the NL.
Baez, meanwhile, leads the Cubs in WAR and nearly every offensive category — OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and hits.
And that's not even saying anything about his glovework at any position on the infield or dynamic baserunning.
He's on pace to become the first Cubs player to drive in 125 runs since Sammy Sosa in 2001.
Baez also is on track for a 30-30 season — something only Sosa accomplished in a Cubs uniform in 1993 and 1995.
El Mago will enjoy his week in the Home Run Derby and as the NL's starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, but those shouldn't be the end of his accolades this year if he can find a way to keep this pace up in the second half.
What other NL candidate would be a better choice for the MVP right now?
Baez is tied for the league lead in RBI. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar is just behind Baez with 70 RBI, but he also has 70 fewer at-bats than the Cubs star due to a platoon to begin the year.
Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are also having great years, but the Reds are nowhere close to a playoff spot.
Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are also having very good seasons on teams that are currently in the playoff hunt, but how do you deny the best player on the league's best team?
After all, where would the Cubs be without Baez this season?
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, the pitching staff has had all kinds of consistency/health woes and Willson Contreras has yet to find his power stroke at the plate.
At the very least, "El Mago" has been the most important player on the North Side of Chicago during the first 3.5 months of 2018.