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Inbox: How is Padres' outfield shaping up?

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

Who's the Padres' left fielder in 2018?
-- Ian H., San Diego

Nobody's going to play 162 games in left field for San Diego this season. I'd be surprised if anyone plays more than 120. The Padres are almost certain to split time among Jose Pirela, Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero. If Alex Dickerson returns to full health, he's in that mix, too.

Who's the Padres' left fielder in 2018?
-- Ian H., San Diego

Nobody's going to play 162 games in left field for San Diego this season. I'd be surprised if anyone plays more than 120. The Padres are almost certain to split time among Jose Pirela, Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero. If Alex Dickerson returns to full health, he's in that mix, too.

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So who will see the most game action from that group? Pirela is easily the most polished hitter, and he's proven he can hold his own against righties and lefties. Defensively, he improved dramatically from his June callup to the end of last season.

Sure, Pirela will get time at second base. But that will come mostly against tough left-handers, allowing either Cory Spangenberg or Carlos Asuaje to get a breather. Pirela's infield defense is suspect, and I'd be surprised if he gets half as many starts at second base as he will in the outfield.

What is the strategy behind Wil Myers playing right field and not left? Shouldn't Renfroe be in right because of his cannon?
-- Tom H., San Diego

First, it should be noted that San Diego will experiment with Myers in left later this spring. The Padres haven't settled on a specific corner-outfield spot for him yet, and he's still getting reacclimated after Eric Hosmer's arrival forced a position switch.

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That said, it seems more than likely Myers will open the season in right field for San Diego. I suspect it has everything to do with the previous question. By no means is Renfroe entrenched in the other corner-outfield spot. Nobody is.

It's likeliest the Padres mix and match to find their third outfielder alongside Myers and Manuel Margot. With that in mind, their goal is to find where Myers is most comfortable. He played 150 games in right field with Tampa Bay in 2013 and '14, and it appears that's where he'll play in '18 as well.

Is the team more likely to platoon younger players or send them to Triple-A El Paso?
-- Pog L.

This seems like a case-by-case question rather than a philosophical one for the organization. We'll start with the easy answer: Top prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias are going to open the season in the Minors. They've been fantastic so far this spring. But there's still plenty to be gained from playing time at Double-A San Antonio or Triple-A El Paso this season.

Video: Urias, Tatis Jr. poised to take leap forward in 2018

For No. 10 prospect Cordero, it's not so clear cut. He batted .326/.369/.603 with El Paso last season, then he won MVP of the Dominican Winter League. Cordero has already proven himself at every level -- except the Majors. As manager Andy Green said earlier this spring: "There aren't a lot of guys that repeat [in the Minors] after hitting 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 homers."

Cordero is off to a strong start this spring, hitting .421 with six extra-base hits in eight games. If he earns his place on the roster, San Diego wouldn't hesitate to keep him. Cordero is a perfect platoon piece as a lefty bat in an outfield that could feature three right-handed hitting starters. Plus, he'd see regular time as a defensive replacement or a pinch-runner.

If Christian Villanueva keeps playing this way, will he be the starting third baseman over Chase Headley?
-- Aaron K., Costa Mesa

If Villanueva continues to hit .450 while slugging .950, yes, I suspect he'll get some playing time. All kidding aside, Villanueva is clearly making a push at the starting third-base job which was once assumed to be Headley's. I asked Green whether Villanueva was forcing his way into the starting picture. His answer was cryptic.

"He's going to play," Green said. "He's not going to be forgotten on the bench. He's a guy that we've liked and believed in, and we're going to find him an opportunity to play."

OK. But where, exactly? Villanueva could serve as the backup shortstop, but Freddy Galvis will play every day there. Villanueva hasn't taken any reps at second base or in the outfield. His likeliest path to a roster spot would be as a pinch-hitting option, given his power and his even splits against righties and lefties.

For now, Headley is the starter at third base, and it's unlikely Villanueva will unseat him based on Cactus League results alone. Of course, the Padres actively shopped Headley during the offseason. They pumped the brakes when they traded Yangervis Solarte, but it remains a distinct possibility -- especially given Villanueva's emergence.

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

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