Tall Shortstop Become The Norm
A generation ago, Fernando Tatis Jr. would have likely been moved to third base early in his pro career.
He’s grown to a stout 6-foot-4. Just a few years ago that was seen as too tall to play shortstop. In the entire 20th Century, there was only one 6-foot-4 shortstop: Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
But Tatis is nearing the big leagues at a time when teams have become more accepting of shortstops who have to shop at big-and-tall stores. The Astros’ Carlos Correa and the Dodgers’ Corey Seager, combatants in last year’s World Series, are both 6-foot-4 shortstops. Another trio of big league shortstops—the Orioles’ Manny Machado, the Pirates’ Jordy Mercer and the Yankees’ Didi Gregorius—are just an inch shorter.
When Correa and Seager were coming through the minors, their size and lack of foot speed led many scouts to question whether they would stay at shortstop. Seager has proven that his arm and deep positioning make up for a less-than-ideal first step, while the ever-driven Correa has gotten quicker and faster thanks to intensive workouts. As one scout explained, Correa has willed himself to stay at the position.
Tatis is faster than either Correa or Seager were when they were prospects, and he seems to face less skepticism from scouts about his ability to stick at the position. Eventually, he may outgrow shortstop, but if he just makes steady improvements in making the routine play, he should stay at the position for years to come.
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“If you’re going to have me at shortstop, you’ll have length,” Tatis said. “I’m going to make diving catches. I think it’s a plus to be a little bigger than the smaller guys. I think we can get to balls they can’t get.”
Tatis went into last season looking to gain roughly 10 pounds of muscle, but he didn’t want to gain more because as he worried it would hinder his ability to play shortstop. He then contracted strep throat during spring training, which melted away much of the 10 pounds he had added. That left him as a skinny, if very tall, shortstop as he left camp.
Which is just the way he likes it.