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SD ready to give Tatis, Urias leeway to develop

Green expects bumps in the road as prospects acclimate to MLB
December 12, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- No doubt, the Padres are justified in their excitement for Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias. They're the top-ranked prospects at shortstop and second base, respectively, according to MLB Pipeline, and they're expected to man the middle of the diamond at Petco Park for a long time.But

LAS VEGAS -- No doubt, the Padres are justified in their excitement for Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias. They're the top-ranked prospects at shortstop and second base, respectively, according to MLB Pipeline, and they're expected to man the middle of the diamond at Petco Park for a long time.
But this much is also true: Tatis and Urias are 19 and 21 years old, respectively. They're going to get significant playing time in 2019, but they're also going to experience growing pains. The Padres want to make sure the burden isn't too heavy on either of them.
Manager Andy Green spoke with the media on Wednesday in his yearly address at the Winter Meetings. He touched on a number of topics -- with his deep farm system at the top of the list. The status of Tatis and Urias became a recurring theme.
• Padres' Top 30 Prospects list
"Both those guys, their minds work, they understand the game," said Green. "They're going to be great, in time, and they're going to have to earn opportunities. Those opportunities are real in front of both of those guys."

The two young middle infielders are on slightly different trajectories. Urias is currently the projected starter at second base after he debuted last September. He batted .208 in 12 games before his season ended due to a left hamstring pull. (Urias still hasn't fully recovered, but he's expected to be healthy by the start of camp.)
Tatis, meanwhile, is the sport's No. 2 ranked prospect overall. He missed the final two months of the regular season after thumb surgery. But he's making up for lost time in the Dominican Winter League, where he's hitting .265/.383/.485.
"They show up with the weight of expectations," Green said. "... I think we've done a nice job in the Minor Leagues of preparing guys mentally for that when they arrive in the big leagues."

It seems unlikely Tatis makes the Opening Day roster, given service-time concerns and the fact that he's only spent half a season at Double-A. But if everything goes according to plan, he could spend three-quarters of the season in San Diego.
Of course, playing shortstop in the Majors is a tall task for any new arrival -- let alone a 20-year-old who has hardly played above Double-A. The Padres are exploring a reunion with Freddy Galvis (and possibly temporarily moving Tatis to third base). But it seems likelier Tatis remains at short and gets his chance after a month or two with Triple-A El Paso.
"We're going to be OK with some of the mistakes of a 20-year-old playing short at the Major League level," Green said, acknowledging the reality of the situation.
Of course the Padres are going to be OK with those mistakes. They spent a decade searching for a long-term shortstop solution, after all. They finally feel as though they've found it.

Green eyes rotation creativity
The Padres remain in the market for starting-pitching help, having finished with the highest rotation ERA in the National League in 2018. They also don't feel as though they need to force any trades or signings this winter.
If the Padres stand pat, they'd have some serious questions when the season begins. None of the five spots in their rotation are guaranteed, though Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi each appear to have a leg up.

"We're looking at Lucchesi, Lauer, guys who did a lot of good things for us last year, and then some open competition," Green said.
That competition could feature some creative options. The club is trying to stretch Matt Strahm into a starting role after his excellent season in the bullpen. But if he can't handle the workload, Strahm is still an option to serve in a shortened starting role, where'd he'd pitch three innings or so before ceding the mound to another reliever.
Strahm did that on five occasions last season, but it could become a more regular occurrence this year. Robert Stock is another option to start games in a one-time-through-the-order capacity.

In fact, the Padres seem very open to any and all rotation possibilities. They could use an opener. They could call up some prospects -- perhaps Logan Allen or Cal Quantrill -- earlier than expected and shuttle them between Triple-A and the Majors. They could go the traditional route and hold a competition for the final three rotation places.
"The dust will settle on our roster construction here, hopefully in the next couple weeks," Green said. "Then we'll have a better idea how we can use the guys we have in the rotation in a productive way for us to be great. I don't think anything's off the table for us."
• Green mused that first baseman Eric Hosmer might bounce back from his rough Padres debut in 2018 following a normal offseason's worth of work. New infielders coach Damion Easley recently flew to Florida to work with Hosmer.
"Eric is the type of guy that is really crushing it from a hitting perspective, working incredibly hard and real excited to be getting after it defensively," Green said. "I think Damion is going to be a terrific partner with him and draw things out in him and expect him to get better.
"He's most excited, in my time talking to him, about having a normal offseason. Last season was anything but that, where he's getting paraded around in the free-agency game and waiting to land in a place. He basically landed with us the first day of Spring Training last year."

• Asked his thoughts on the possibility that Major League Baseball might institute a rule change banning or limiting the shift, Green didn't express much of an opinion either way. According to FanGraphs, the Padres shifted on 5.01 batters per game last season, the third fewest in the Majors.
"I'm not that concerned that if you take the shift off we're not going to be able to create a competitive advantage," Green said. "Everybody is playing by those rules. Some people might have a real strong passion, but the game is effectively going to be the same."
• As things stand, the Padres are set for a fierce spring competition at catcher between Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia, with the more experienced Hedges as the early favorite. Who is Green's starter right now?
"That's the beauty of Dec. 12," he said. "I don't have to decide that right now."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.