Do Alonso and Tatis Jr. represent a paradigm shift?

Just days before the 2019 Major League Baseball Opening Day, the New York Mets and San Diego Padres announced that two of the league’s brightest prospects will be on their respective Major League rosters to start the season.

Third baseman Pete Alonso will travel north with the Mets and shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. will be the San Diego Padres starting shortstop. Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen had stated his desire to include Alonso on the 25-man roster if he deserved it. Tatis was more of a surprise as the Padres appear to be at least a year or two away from serious contention and would benefit from having Tatis under team control for a bit longer. 

In this age of analytics, it’s become almost a commandment among MLB general managers to keep their top prospects off their Opening Day rosters since the last collective bargaining agreement was signed in 2011. However, Alonso and Tatis are showing signs that MLB teams may be rethinking the status quo. Both the Mets and Padres insisted that the status of Alonso and Tatis, as well as other top prospects, would be determined solely by merit.

The question that bears asking is whether Alonso and Tatis Jr. represent truly new thinking or if their arrival on the Major League roster is a sign that teams expect that this loophole may be closing with the new CBA?

Alonso rewarded the Mets faith with an impressive Spring Training season in which he hit .352 with four home runs and a 1.006 OPS in 22 games. However, the team was more concerned about Alonso’s defense. But it was clear that Alonso was the only viable third base candidate for the Mets, who are optimistic about contending behind a strong starting pitching staff and the addition of Robinson Cano. 

Tatis will be the youngest player (20 years and 85 days old) to start for the Padres on Opening Day. The transition for Tatis will be made considerably easier if he looks to his right where Manny Machado will be helping mentor the rookie. 

Tatis’ father, who had an 11-year Major League career, was the first to report the news which the junior Tatis told him about in a Sunday night phone call.  “It’s awesome for him,” the senior Tatis said. “It’s going to be great because playing right next to Manny is going to be a big help for him …The left side of the infield is going to be amazing.”