Juan Soto is on the IL. Mookie Betts is recovering from being hit by a pitch. Ronald Acuna is dealing with an abdominal strain. But those injuries to star players pale in significance when compared to the situation with Fernando Tatis Jr.
In more than 20 years of playing fantasy baseball, the current situation of Tatis Jr. is among the most perplexing I’ve seen. A bonafide superstar, Tatis had a March ADP of second overall and was picked first in many Yahoo leagues. But the euphoria for his drafters didn’t last long, as the shortstop suffered a shoulder injury on April 5 in such dramatic fashion that he was feared to have played his last 2021 game. Tatis remarkably returned on April 16 and hit a solo homer, but the good news ended there, as he has gone 3-for-21 with eight strikeouts since returning to action. All the while, a cloud seems to be hanging over the 22-year-old. Many analysts in the medical field believe that Tatis needs more rest and that it is only a matter of time before his shoulder gives way once again. Fantasy managers are left stuck in the middle, trying to decide if they should trade someone who they coveted just three weeks ago. Here is my best advice for Tatis managers.
Step One: Assess your league size
In a 10-team league, I want someone who was within 1-2 rounds of Tatis on draft day. At the shortstop position, Bo Bichette and Francisco Lindor come to mind. The fruitful waiver wire in these shallow formats gives me greater reason to take the chance on Tatis soon finding his peak form and leading me to first place. Managers in these shallow formats could replace a re-injured Tatis with someone like Jazz Chisholm, who has shown plenty of potential and remains rostered in less than 75 percent of Yahoo leagues. Those who want to go the safe route could grab Jean Segura, and in some shallow formats Dansby Swanson and Didi Gregorius are sitting on waivers.
In a 12-team league, I would take someone like Xander Bogaerts or Tim Anderson in a Tatis deal, thereby dropping to players who went in Rd. 3-5 of drafts. In these formats there are still some solid players on the waiver wire, such as Jorge Polanco, Paul DeJong or Kike Hernandez.
In deep formats, such as 15-team mixed leagues or NL-Only formats, trading away Tatis is more of a necessity, as the waiver wire is virtually barren of helpful alternatives. I would struggle to trade him straight up for a slow-starting shortstop such as Swanson or Gleyber Torres, but I would consider a deal of that nature if the other manager added in a second player.
Step Two: Assess your needs
A healthy Tatis can do it all, posting a helpful batting average and elite totals in both homers and steals. But trading him away at a discount means that you won’t get all of his skills in return. At this point, you need to search the rest of your roster and determine which of Tatis’ skills are the most vital to your team. There are three directions you can go:
1. Look for a powerful player who doesn’t many steal bases. At the shortstop position, players such as Corey Seager, Bogaerts, Alex Bregman and Torres fit the bill at various levels of productivity.
2. Look for a speedster who lacks power. With Adalberto Mondesi on the IL, those who seek this skill set would need to look to another position.
3. Find a balanced contributor who is not a game-changer in any area. Bichette, Lindor and Anderson are high-end options in this area, while someone like Marcus Semien could be packaged with another player.
Step Three: Widen your search
If you can’t find an obvious match, you need to widen your search. At this point in the season you should be looking for value in trades and not obsessed with positions or skill sets anyways. Here are some other angles you can pursue.
1. If you are in a league with friends, target the managers who are most likely to embrace the risk associated with Tatis. Find the manager who will cannonball into a pool with all their clothes on, and you might have your match!
2. Take a shot at the managers who are at the bottom of the standings. Already off to a bad start, they might be more willing than usual to shake things up. Depending on the stakes of your league, one of these managers might be ready to take a shot at Tatis and then give up in June if things don’t work out.
3. You can often get great fantasy value when someone else is dealing from an area of surplus. For example, someone who found Tyler Glasnow in Rd. 4 and Corbin Burns in Rd. 5 may be willing to trade you the ace he took in Rd. 2. Or maybe someone in your league wound up with a surplus of saves and would trade you Aroldis Chapman and a second player to land Tatis.
I don’t blame anyone who is reluctant to trade Tatis. But with the chances of re-injury and possibility that his shoulder slows down his overall production, the San Diego superstar has lost a lot of fantasy value since draft day. Exploring his trade market makes plenty of sense right now.