Donning a San Diego Padres uniform for the first time on Friday, Manny Machado is already looking forward to playing with top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr.
Manny Machado spoke glowingly about the San Diego Padres organization during his first press conference with the team on Friday. Some of his highest praise, however, was directed at the Padres’ top prospect who will soon be beside him on the left side of the infield.
Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., the second-ranked prospect in baseball, is a strong contender to make the club out of Spring Training. The Dominican native and son of an 11-year MLB veteran is coming off a season in which he hit .286 with 16 home runs and a .862 OPS at Double-A San Antonio.
Machado, who knows what it’s like to be a highly-touted prospect, got his first opportunity to see Tatis in action soon after signing his record 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres on Tuesday. He came away with the impression that all the hype surrounding the 20-year-old is real.
“He’s a beast, Did you see him? Six-four, 200 pounds. I mean, the guy’s an absolute beast,” he said.
Machado only has to look in the mirror to find the player Tatis reminds him of. He was only 20, the same age as Tatis, when he made his Major League debut with the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 and says he sees a little bit of himself when he watches Tatis play.
“He reminds me of myself when I was 20, 19 years old when I got called up,” Machado said. “He’s just a great player, has all the tools. He can run, he can field, he’s got power. He can do it all.”
Machado will move to third base, the position he played most of his career with the Orioles before switching to shortstop last year, to make room for Tatis. The relationship between the two of them, of veteran mentor and budding superstar, is reminiscent of when Machado first broke into the big leagues. Back in 2012, Machado had J.J. Hardy, a three-time Gold Glove winner, to guide him. Now Machado, with two Gold Gloves himself, hopes to do for Tatis what Hardy did for him.
“Just coming here, playing third base, try to help him out like J.J. Hardy helped me out when I got called up,” he said. “It was a big influence. I got my Gold Gloves because of J.J., having him next to me. Hopefully, I can do the same to him.”
Machado is still just 26 but already sees himself as a veteran able to help out the young players on the Padres roster. The club has 10 players among MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects, the most in the Majors. Despite the fact the franchise hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2010 and hasn’t made the postseason since 2006, Machado says the club’s promising future played a part in his decision to sign here.
“Made it a little easier to make the decision, that they’re confident in bringing me on board. Helping me be a part of this team, helping the younger guys,” he said. “One of the best farm systems in the game. The best. Just to come here as a 26-year-old veteran, just try to give my knowledge to these guys and hopefully get back to the playoffs for the city of San Diego.”
The role of mentor is one that Machado’s fully embracing. Even if Tatis is unwilling to accept his guidance, Machado says he’ll still be there giving him all the support he can.
“Just teach him everything I know, and hopefully he takes it. If not, I’m going to get on him,” he said.
If Tatis follows the same path that Machado did, the Padres’ infield is set for the next decade. Machado insists he’ll do everything in his power to see that happen, both on the field and off it.