The kid sees things you don't.
Standing on third base, Fernando Tatis Jr. sees daylight home on pop flies to second. Sprinting toward potential catastrophe, he sees a defensive crack he can bust open with a squiggly slide.
He sees dance parties in the San Diego dugout and sugar cane farmers laboring back home in San Pedro De Macoris, Dominican Republic, celebrating them with the wildly popular "sugar cane chop" he introduced to the Padres this spring. The love of his mother. He sees that, too, evident in the subtle pink accent coloring a piece of equipment he wears many games, be it the frame of his sunglasses, the tabs on the backs of his spikes, his wristbands, something. He's absorbed her love and dedication wholly, appreciates everything she's done to help place him in this crackling, electric moment, and if he's wearing his father's name across the back of his jersey, well, he figures the least he can do is give her a quiet nightly shout-out as well.
Tatis doesn't so much play baseball as celebrate it, from his flowing, bleach-blond dreadlocks right down to the tips of his five-tool toes.
"He's the most exciting young player I've seen since Ken Griffey Jr.," venerated baseball journalist Peter Gammons said a few Sundays ago during batting practice at the MLB Futures Game in Cleveland, nodding toward Junior—Griffey, not Tatis—behind the cage as he spoke.
Tatis has yet to even play 100 games in the bigs and already the chorus is nearing standing-room only.
"He's a top-10 player in the major leagues right now," says Skip Schumaker, an 11-year veteran who helped the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series and now serves as the Padres' first base coach. "He's all-world in defense, he's all-world in running the bases, he's all-world at the plate.
"He's a difference-maker when you put him in the lineup on both sides of the ball."
The kid is all of 20 years old. Already, he has joined Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Correa as the only three shortstops to have 18 or more homers in their age-20 seasons. Last month, he became the youngest player to belt leadoff home runs in consecutive games. He projects to finish the season batting .320/.383/.600 with 34 homers and 64 extra-base hits despite missing five weeks from late April to early June with a strained hamstring.