Fernando Tatis Makes History In Midwest League

UPDATE: Tatis didn’t take long to break the Fort Wayne franchise record for home runs in a season. On Saturday, he cranked home run No. 21.

When Fernando Tatis Jr. launched a 3-0 fastball from Bowling Green righthander Chris Pike for a home run on Friday evening, the Padres shortstop prospect etched his name into Midwest League history.

The home run was Tatis' 20th of the season for low Class A Fort Wayne. With it, Tatis became first 18-year-old—and just the sixth teenager—to post a 20-20 season in the Midwest League in the modern era of minor league baseball, which was reclassified in 1963.

"(A 20-20 season) was something I was thinking about in the offseason," said Tatis, the son of the former big league third baseman of the same name. "I was working on my power and speed at the same time, and I think it paid off."

Nick Franklin (2010), Wily Mo Pena (2001), Corey Patterson (1999), Ivan Calderon (1981) and Rich Murray (1977) were the other teenagers to reach 20-20 in the Midwest League. All did it in their age-19 seasons.

The blast that put Tatis in the 20-20 club was particularly majestic. It exited the bat at 111 mph, according to TrackMan data provided by Fort Wayne, and traveled just over 430 feet, landing on the pedestrian concourse beyond the seats in left-center field at Parkview Field.

The home run also moved Tatis into a tie for the Fort Wayne franchise record for home runs in a season (Jake Patterson, 1997) and made him the first 18-year-old to hit 20 homers in the Midwest League since Derek Parks in 1987.

Overall Tatis enters Saturday with 20 home runs and 28 stolen bases on the season, and has 23 games remaining to add to his totals.

"Being part of something that is very hard, it's something that feels like my hard work has paid off and being the kind of player I am today thanks to my dad, it's awesome," Tatis said. "I talked to my dad after it and we were laughing. Remembering all the times, all the workouts we used to do, and how it's all paid off. We were very happy last night, me and my family."

That Tatis was able to reach the historic milestone is as much a testament to his ability to adjust as his prodigious raw talent.

Tatis hit just .219/.299/.319 with two home runs and a 29 percent strikeout rate through the first 25 games of this season. Opposing pitchers fed him a steady diet of breaking balls, and Tatis was often caught swinging over the top of them.

He made the necessary adjustments in May, putting in the work to improve his approach and strike-zone discipline, and began seeing an immediate uptick in results.

"It just had to do with an approach, first month coming into his first full season," Fort Wayne hitting coach Doug Banks said. "To be honest this guy is a very good offspeed hitter, a very good breaking ball hitter, he just had a bad first month with it. It had to do more so with an approach, and he stayed true to himself and got better at it."

Tatis ripped off 15-game hit streak in May, upped his walk rate and cut his strikeout rate in June, and has been on an absolute tear since the minor league all-star break.

In the second half of the minor league season, Tatis has hit .288/.430/.621 with 11 homers, 16 stolen bases, and nearly as many walks (38) as strikeouts (40) in 153 at-bats.

"Each month he's just been able to digest what he's done, take it into the next month and get better at whatever he wants to get better at," Banks said. "Walk-to-strikeout ratio, contact-to-damage ratio, the kid is very smart, very intelligent. When he steps out with what he wants to do and he puts that mindset of that goal in front of him, he usually goes and gets it."

Tatis' improvements and accomplishments have cemented him as one of the top prospects in the game. And they've given him a place in the Midwest League record books.

"It's awesome, no words can describe it," Tatis said. "Being 18 and already accomplished this, it keeps me pushing to keep working hard every day. Like I talked to my dad about, we might have something special here."

20-20 teenagers in the Midwest League (since 1963 reclassification)

Season Player Team HR SB Season Age
2017 Fernando Tatis Jr. Fort Wayne (Padres) 20 28 18*
2010 Nick Franklin Clinton (Mariners) 23 25 19
2001 Wily Mo Pena Dayton (Reds) 26 26 19
1999 Corey Patterson Lansing (Cubs) 20 33 19
1981 Ivan Calderon Wausau (Mariners) 20 26 19
1977 Rich Murray Cedar Rapids (Giants) 21 20 19

*Through Aug. 12, 2017

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

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