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Inbox: How will Padres' rotation shape up?

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

Assuming this is the pitching staff that gets us by until Cal Quantrill and the Double-A arms are ready, do you think the rotation stays the same next year? Maybe Jhoulys Chacin leaves, but I can't see Clayton Richard wanting to go somewhere else.
-- Kyle W., Seattle

I wouldn't be surprised if the Padres make an effort to bring back both Chacin and Richard. They've been reliable innings-eaters, and the club is very pleased with how they've helped bring along some of the young pitchers on staff. That said, don't expect the same rotation. San Diego's lack of starting pitching depth has been an issue all year, and the club will be looking to add arms any way it can.

Assuming this is the pitching staff that gets us by until Cal Quantrill and the Double-A arms are ready, do you think the rotation stays the same next year? Maybe Jhoulys Chacin leaves, but I can't see Clayton Richard wanting to go somewhere else.
-- Kyle W., Seattle

I wouldn't be surprised if the Padres make an effort to bring back both Chacin and Richard. They've been reliable innings-eaters, and the club is very pleased with how they've helped bring along some of the young pitchers on staff. That said, don't expect the same rotation. San Diego's lack of starting pitching depth has been an issue all year, and the club will be looking to add arms any way it can.

Luis Perdomo and Dinelson Lamet have shown small flashes of excellence. But the two young righties are far from sure things. After that, it's a grab bag of injury returnees and aging veterans -- including Christian Friedrich, Robbie Erlin, Colin Rea, Travis Wood, Matt Strahm and Jarred Cosart.

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Simply put, that's too many question marks to go into a season with. Expect a free-agent signing or two, even if Richard and Chacin return.

And sticking with that theme ...

Who will make his Major League debut first out of the Double-A rotation of Quantrill, Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, Enyel De Los Santos, Jacob Nix and Brett Kennedy?
-- Kenny K.

That's quite the rotation in San Antonio -- and a big reason why the Missions won their division in both halves of the Texas League season. Five of those prospects rank in the club's top 15 by MLBPipeline.com, and Kennedy -- the lone exception -- has been arguably the Missions' most valuable pitcher, with a 3.73 ERA and 133 strikeouts.

It's hard to envision any of those six pitching for the Padres early next season. Quantrill -- ranked No. 2 in the system and No. 43 overall -- has the highest upside. But he's got more development left ahead of him. Quantrill has struggled a bit since his midseason promotion, posting a 4.17 ERA in 36 2/3 innings. His earliest arrival is probably as a September 2018 callup.

I'll go with Lucchesi, another 2016 draftee. At 24, he's the oldest of the group. And Lucchesi's swing-and-miss stuff has thus far translated at every level. Like Quantrill, he was promoted to Double-A at midseason. Lucchesi has thrived, having posted a 1.79 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings. Here's guessing that Lucchesi -- a lefty with a funky yet composed delivery -- earns a big league callup sometime around the All-Star break.

What outfielders do you envision will be in the Majors to start next season?
-- Bryan T., San Diego

The 2017 season was supposed to bring clarity to the Padres' outfield situation. Instead, it's brought more questions than answers. Let's start with what we know: Manuel Margot will be San Diego's center fielder. And that's about it.

Of the seven corner outfield candidates, I'd argue none have solidified a place next season -- though Jose Pirela has certainly come close. Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson were bitten by the injury bug in 2017. Jabari Blash and Franchy Cordero have yet to see their Triple-A success fully translate. And Hunter Renfroe -- while showcasing power potential -- has had serious trouble with plate discipline.

With holes to fill elsewhere, it's hard to see the Padres shelling out for a free-agent outfielder. If everyone were healthy, I'd guess Pirela, Dickerson and Renfroe would share time at the two corner spots, while Matt Szczur and Jankowski compete for the backup job in center.

What are the organization's thoughts about Javier Guerra?
-- Juan, San Diego

For obvious reasons, the Padres aren't as high on Guerra as they were when he was acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade two offseasons ago. His glove has been brilliant, as advertised. But Guerra's bat simply hasn't panned out. He's hitting .214/.266/.339 in two seasons in the organization, spent between Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio.

That said, multiple people in the organization have reiterated to me that San Diego isn't close to giving up on the onetime top 100 prospect. At 21 years old, they say Guerra still has time to hone his plate approach. Only two seasons ago, he was swinging a hot bat for Greenville as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League.

The past two seasons have undoubtedly stifled expectations. But this year, the Padres believe Guerra has made strides mentally. He's matured in his ability to handle such setbacks. Unless there's progress at the plate, that's worth very little, however. And the club is eager to see how Guerra handles the top-tier pitching talent in the Arizona Fall League.

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

San Diego Padres