The San Diego Padres have broken brackets and bewildered the brains of many across the baseball world as they have advanced to the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Not many people thought they could get past the 101-win Mets in the Wild Card round. Even fewer gave them a chance against the 111-win Dodgers in the Division Series. But the Padres, improbably, cleared both hurdles. And they did so without the man who was widely regarded as their best player entering this season, Fernando Tatis Jr.
The 23-year-old Tatis finished among the top-5 in NL MVP voting in each of the past two seasons. But he has not played this season, first due to a wrist injury revealed in March and then due to a PED suspension in August. That 80-game suspension will carry into the 2023 season, so Tatis will not be around the team for the duration of its playoff run.
Second-year shortstop Ha-Seong Kim has filled in admirably with Tatis away. He posted a 107 OPS+ at the plate and a +6 Outs Above Average on defense during the regular season. He has scored seven runs through the Padres’ seven playoff games so far and came through with a key RBI double during San Diego’s series-clinching Game 4 win over Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Tatis has used his downtime to get his body repaired. He underwent a much-needed left shoulder surgery last month and then had a second left wrist surgery last week.