Good Day (to everyone except for Padres fans and Fernando Tatis Jr. owners),

If you’ve followed MLB, or any professional sports for that matter, we’ve been graced throughout the years with some of the silliest excuses and quotes for steroid abuse use. We’ve heard lines from pro athletes such as: “I had to live up to my contract,” “The Mafia set me up,” or “I thought these pills were only for my off-the-field performance.Fernando Tatis Jr. and his ringworm explanation of how he tested positive for a banned substance ranks up among the silliest excuses for why PEDs were found in his system. Almost as bad as Melky Cabrera creating a fake website in an attempt to avoid a PED suspension. The bottom line is this: if you play professional sports, your body is your vehicle for success and/or failure. Not claiming responsibility for what you consume to impact your performance on and off the field is simply immature and negligent.

Now, Tatis is young and is married to the Padres for another 13 years. A.J. Preller and Tatis’ teammates sure have a right to be upset with FTJ’s off-the-field antics. PED use for a player considered to be a face of MLB is surely a stain on the game.  On a real-world level, the Padres’ moves at the Trade Deadline certainly loom large, and it seems like AJ Preller was operating under the assumption that he wasn’t even counting on Tatis to make a major impact this season (wrist injuries can be significant for hitters as we know). Who knows if Tatis would have hit the ground running once he finished his rehab assignment. At this point, the Padres don’t even need Tatis to compete for a playoff berth this season even if he did come back, as Juan Soto and Brandon Drury have quickly shown their impact on the Padres lineup.

I’m confident Tatis will mature and learn from his mistakes, but unfortunately, his 2022 season is done, along with the start of his 2023 season. If you’re in a money spot in your leagues without Tatis all season, congrats to you. While a player of Tatis’ caliber can never be replaced, here’s a look at some middle infielders that can help patch your team along in various categories as we hit the stretch run:

Vaughn Grissom: Braves – Grissom was called up last week as Orlando Arcia hurt his hamstring. Ozzie Albies continues to rehab his foot injury. Grissom is doing his best FTJ impression, with a couple homers and stolen bases to his name thus far. Good for the Braves for being aggressive with their prospects. Let the kids play! Grissom has hit at every level, has good speed, and may be a bit underrated in the power department. I’m sure you’ve seen The Itch’s numerous articles referencing Vaughn Grissom these past few months. The Braves have a good problem on their hands when Albies returns to the lineup, but word on the street is that Grissom could give Dansby Swanson a breather while also playing the outfield at times if needed. Looking long-term, it’s conceivable the Braves don’t feel the need to overpay for Swanson as he hits free agency in the offseason.

Gunnar Henderson: Norfolk Tides (AAA) Orioles – With the surprising Orioles in the Wild Card hunt, it’s a matter of time before middle infield prospect Gunnar Henderson gets called up for his major league debut. We recently saw the Braves call up their #1 prospect in a tight NL East division race. Gunnar was recently named Baseball America’s #1 overall prospect and Gunnar’s trending towards a 20/20, .300 line across a couple different minor league levels. Rougned Odor has been wearing out his welcome in Baltimore, as he’s hitting around the Mendoza Line and making some crucial errors in the field as of late. The Orioles have already called up prospect pitcher DL Hall this week, so hopefully, it’s a sign the Orioles are committed to making a playoff push, and hopefully, Henderson comes up soon.

Nick Gordon: Twins – Gordon’s currently having a rough week, but has been hitting the ball hard of late (48.4% hard hit rate), walking more, and is triple-eligible in Yahoo (2B, SS & OF).  While Gordon may occasionally sit against a lefty, Gordon’s been getting regular at-bats and is developing nicely. He won’t kill you in batting average and will chip in a few steals and homers down the stretch. Gordon is a typical product of the Twins system (contact-first) and looks to be progressing as a quality Major Leaguer.

Jorge Mateo: Orioles – Mateo is up to 67% rostered as of this piece in Yahoo. He’s had a great month (16/4/13/.333/.365/1). It’s nice to see he’s walking and barreling the ball up more. 2023 or 2024 may be Mateo’s true breakout season, but Mateo can help you down the stretch this season, assuming your needs are batting average and stolen bases. Eventually, he should develop into more power.

Luis Rengifo: Angels – Rengifo remains in the 3-hole in the Angels lineup. Hopefully, he’ll have some extra protection in the lineup when Trout returns (thought I’d manifest that in the universe). While his 27/7/27/.271/.308/5 overall line doesn’t look too impressive, he’s turned things on a bit as of late and looks to have some favorable matchups this upcoming week against the Mariners and Tigers.

Jeff McNeil: Mets – What’s the deal, Jeff McNeil? McNeil has been one of the hottest hitters in the game the past few weeks (8/2/9/.417/.442). He’s not the power bat he used to be, but he’s a catalyst in the Mets lineup that has been scoring plenty of runs as of late.

That’s it for now, have a great week!