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Inbox: What's ahead for Padres' rotation?

Beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers fans' questions
MLB.com @AJCassavell

What's your 2021 San Diego Padres starting rotation?
-- Chris H., San Diego

Nicely done, Chris. You've submitted a question that's guaranteed to make me look foolish in four years. I have a hard enough time piecing together a 2018 staff, let alone a starting five for '21. But I'm here to give the people what they want, so here's my best guess:

What's your 2021 San Diego Padres starting rotation?
-- Chris H., San Diego

Nicely done, Chris. You've submitted a question that's guaranteed to make me look foolish in four years. I have a hard enough time piecing together a 2018 staff, let alone a starting five for '21. But I'm here to give the people what they want, so here's my best guess:

1. MacKenzie Gore
2. A free-agent signing
3. Cal Quantrill
4. Adrian Morejon, Anderson Espinoza or Michel Baez
5. Dinelson Lamet or Luis Perdomo

The Padres expect to be routinely competing for a playoff spot by 2021. By then, they should be willing to spend on a free-agent arm that can sit toward the top of their rotation. As for Gore, he's only 18. But he's as close to a big league lock as any 18-year-old can be. For the sake of this exercise, let's assume that Gore pans out. Let's also assume Quantrill -- who has thrived since his Double-A callup -- pans out. He's close enough to the big leagues where it would qualify as a surprise if he didnt.

After that, things get murkier. No one's denying the potential within Morejon, Espinoza and Baez, the club's Nos. 5, 6 and 7 prospects, respectively. But Morejon is only 18, and Espinoza is coming off Tommy John surgery. Baez, meanwhile, came out of nowhere to dominate at Class A this season. All three have plenty of development ahead, and if we're playing the percentages, it's probably likeliest that only one becomes an impact pitcher at the big league level.

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The last spot goes to either Perdomo or Lamet, two rotation fixtures this season. Remember, folks, four years is a long time, and a lot will happen between now and then.

Video: SD@CIN: Perdomo fans seven over six-plus frames

What do the Padres plan to do with their Cory Spangenberg, Yangervis Solarte, Carlos Asuaje and Luis Urias logjam?
-- Pog L.

While we're at it, we might as well throw Ryan Schimpf into the mix as well. The Padres have four players capable of manning second and/or third base in the bigs. And Urias, the club's No. 3 prospect, is knocking on the door.

Make no mistake, it's a nice problem for general manager A.J. Preller to have. But it's an issue that needs addressing. Entering the offseason, I'd guess Solarte, Asuaje, Spangenberg and Schimpf will all be shopped. Solarte, given his age and team-friendly contract, is the likeliest to be dealt.

Spangenberg, meanwhile, is probably most likely to stay, given his ceiling and his resurgence this season. Until Urias is ready, San Diego should be content with Spangenberg at third, Asuaje at second and Schimpf as a backup option at both spots.

Video: PHI@SD: Spangenberg belts a solo homer to center

It seems like Jose Pirela is at least a starting Major League outfielder, potentially a star. Where does he fit into the future plans, if at all?
-- Austin, Scottsdale, Ariz.

"Potential star" doesn't seem like a fair label to place on Pirela. But "starting Major League outfielder" certainly does at this point. His defense remains subpar, but it has improved immensely. And there's reason to believe Pirela's run-producing bat is here to stay.

So how does Pirela fit? Well, there's room on any roster for a player who can play multiple positions and rake against pitchers from both sides. Plus, if he puts up similar numbers next season, it's feasible another team could come calling at the Trade Deadline. Pirela will be 28 then, and the Padres might be able to turn him into an interesting prospect or two.

It seems a foregone conclusion that Cody Bellinger has the National League Rookie of the Year Award race locked up. If he were to fall off the face of the earth, how would you rate Manuel Margot's chances against the rest of the competition?
-- Cam D., Bend, Ore.

Padres fans might disagree, but Bellinger is one of the most exciting rookies in recent memory. Still, as Cam points out, Bellinger's historic season has robbed us of any semblance of an NL Rookie of the Year Award race. Instead, the only suspense come November will be: Who finishes second?

Right now, that's got to be Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong. But there's a serious case to be made for Margot, who has improved in all facets during the second half. In fact, Margot's numbers probably don't do his season justice, as he spent part of the first half dealing with a nagging calf injury. The guess here is that Margot's resurgence continues, and he finishes in the top three -- making him the first San Diego player to do so since Khalil Greene and Akinori Otsuka both did so in 2004.

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

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