SAN DIEGO -- Entering the 2017 season, there might not be a set of roster races more wide open than those in San Diego.
"If you look at the way our roster is comprised right now, Wil Myers is in there, [Yangervis] Solarte is in there," Padres manager Andy Green said. "Everything else is open -- with some guys who have made very strong cases for consideration."
Indeed, the Padres' roster makeup figures to be a fascinating offseason question, largely because of the young talent that burst onto the scene this year. The outfield race will be wide open after five rookies spent time there in 2016. So, too, will the competition for spots in the middle of the infield. And the starting rotation might have the most question marks of all.
• Padres hope to build on strides made in 2016
Currently, Myers and Solarte are the only starters with spots locked up for 2017.
"I can't look at another position on the field and say, 'That guy's going to start at second base,' or, 'That guy's going to start at shortstop,' or, 'That guy's going to start in center field,'" Green said. "Some guys have made some strong cases -- [Ryan] Schimpf has, [Travis] Jankowski has. But we'll let it play out in Spring Training."
Arbitration-eligible: RHP Tyson Ross, IF Alexi Amarista, C Héctor Sánchez, C Derek Norris, RHP Carter Capps, 1B Brett Wallace, 1B Myers, 3B Solarte, RHP Brandon Maurer, LHP Brad Hand, LHP Christian Friedrich, OF Oswaldo Arcía, 2B Jemile Weeks
Free agents: OF Jon Jay, RHP Carlos Villanueva, RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Clayton Richard, RHP Brandon Morrow, IF Adam Rosales
Rotation: After starting on Opening Day, Ross didn't make another appearance for the Padres all season due to right shoulder inflammation. His return in 2017 would give the rotation an immediate boost. Breakout rookie Luis Perdomo figures to have his spot on the '17 staff locked up, but after that, it's wide open. If Colin Rea's recovery from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament goes smoothly, he'll have a place. Friedrich and Jarred Cosart would appear to be favorites, but expect San Diego to go after a free-agent starter or two. An outside-the-box option would be the lefty reliever Hand, who the club is mulling as a starting option entering next year.
Bullpen: If Hand remains in the 'pen, he and Ryan Buchter would give the Padres a fantastic combination of late-inning lefties to set up the presumed closer Maurer. But there's no question the relief corps needs some depth behind those three. San Diego has plenty of internal options, but the club will undoubtedly look to the open market for a veteran addition or two.
Catcher: Norris' dismal 2016 campaign likely opens up the door for Austin Hedges to take over. The 24-year-old Hedges batted .326/.353/.597 with 20 homers for Triple-A El Paso this season, and he's the club's presumed catcher of the future. Meanwhile, Christian Bethancourt could stay on board as a backup catcher, but the club will also experiment with him as an outfielder in an effort to give him some increased playing time, particularly against lefties.
First base: The only truly stable position on the Padres' roster, first base belongs to Myers for 2017 and beyond. In fact, it's very possible San Diego will attempt to work out an extension with Myers, since he's ticketed for free agency after the '19 season. Myers has emerged as a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat, who the Padres' front office plans to build around for the next half decade.
Second base: Second base will be arguably the most interesting positional battle on the roster entering 2017. Schimpf emerged as a bona fide power threat this season while Cory Spangenberg was down with a quad injury. Schimpf's superb rookie campaign makes him the early favorite, but Spangenberg, at only 25 years old, remains a supreme talent. He will likely be fully healthy within the next month, and he'll have every chance to win the job back. Rookie Carlos Asuaje figures to be in the mix as well.
Third base: Solarte, despite dealing with personal tragedy in 2016, put forth a fantastic campaign, which almost certainly assures him of an Opening Day job next year. He's well established as the club's third baseman, though San Diego could still opt to flip Solarte and Schimpf -- as the latter has shown himself to be a better defender at third than second.
"I've liked what I've seen of him at third base; he's adjusted well over there," Green said of Schimpf, before addressing the possibility of flipping the pair. "I think it would be something that, really strongly, we talk about in the offseason. We'll probably go into spring with the flexibility to go either way."
Shortstop: In Luis Sardiñas and José Rondón, the Padres have no shortage of young shortstop options. But given their immense inexperience, don't be surprised if the club looks externally to provide some competition for the two. Sardinas would appear to have the upper hand for 2017. But as Green said, "If [Sardinas] wants to be a shortstop in the Major Leagues for a long period of time, there's more work out in front of him."
Outfield: Good luck guessing San Diego's starting outfield in 2017. There's not a single lock in a group of possibilities that runs six or seven players deep. Center fielder Jankowski has the best chance to return as a starter next season, after establishing his skills as a leadoff man and an elite defender. Fellow rookie Alex Dickerson also made a nice case this season, while top prospectsManuel Margot (No. 2) and Hunter Renfroe (No. 3) did the same -- albeit at Triple-A. Don't be surprised if the club attempts to bring back Jay -- or a veteran of the same ilk who can play all three outfield spots. Meanwhile, Jabari Blash and Oswaldo Arcia are outside candidates for roster spots.