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Inbox: Should upstart Villanueva start at 3B?

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

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres have 10 days until their March 29 season opener against Milwaukee at Petco Park, leaving seven spring games to decide a handful of roster battles.

With less than a week until the club breaks camp in Peoria, here's a look at some of your most pressing Padres-related questions.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres have 10 days until their March 29 season opener against Milwaukee at Petco Park, leaving seven spring games to decide a handful of roster battles.

With less than a week until the club breaks camp in Peoria, here's a look at some of your most pressing Padres-related questions.

Submit your question to the Padres Inbox

Does Christian Villanueva have a legit shot to be the Padres' Opening Day third baseman?
-- Miguel E.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

As good as Villanueva has been this spring, he wouldn't start at third base over Chase Headley (especially given the Brewers' plan to start right-hander Chase Anderson on March 29). Headley has the savvy plate discipline the Padres have lacked over the past few seasons. They're extremely eager to put their on-base woes behind them this season.

There is one long-shot scenario that would see Villanueva as the Opening Day starter at third. The Padres made no secret that they were shopping Headley during the offseason. If the right deal came along, I suspect they wouldn't hesitate to move Headley, who is in the last year of his contract. That would clear the way for something of a Villanueva/Cory Spangenberg platoon at third base. If not now, the Padres are almost certain to explore this possibility at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Speaking of...

Who is most likely to be traded at or before the non-waiver Trade Deadline?
-- Bob M.

We're looking way ahead with this question. There's a lot that needs to be settled this spring. But, hey, why not? It's always fun to talk trades, even three months in advance.

Headley is the most obvious candidate. He'd be a relatively inexpensive rental for a contending team in need of a third baseman. After Headley, the trade options are less obvious. Brad Hand will almost certainly generate buzz, even though he signed an extension during the offseason. If Hand's All-Star form continues, the Padres might finally receive the massive prospect haul they've been asking for.

Some less likely scenarios involve San Diego moving one of its left fielders (Hunter Renfroe/Jose Pirela) or second basemen (Carlos Asuaje/Spangenberg), because one player out of each of these scenarios has grabbed control of the position.

How much time does Pirela see at second base this season?
-- Eric C.

Second base has been an adventure for Pirela this spring. That's not to say he's been dreadful there -- just that he's looked awkward at times, particularly on a few routine plays. The thinking behind Pirela's move to second is clear: The Padres want a way to squeeze his bat and Renfroe's into the lineup at the same time, particularly against lefties.

Video: SD@SF: Pirela leads off the 6th with a home run

That said, I'm skeptical about the experiment. The rotation is littered with ground-ball specialists, and manager Andy Green is likely to prioritize infield defense on most nights. Here's guessing Pirela starts 20-30 games at second -- typically against left-handers and almost never when Luis Perdomo or Clayton Richard starts for San Diego.

When will we see Joey Lucchesi in the big leagues?
-- Mario S., San Marcos, Calif.

Why not opening weekend? He's still on the big league roster, after all. OK, not going to happen. The 24-year-old left-hander -- ranked No. 9 among Padres prospects according to MLB Pipeline -- is destined to start the year in the Minors. The club thinks he still has room to grow.

Video: Top Prospects: Joey Lucchesi, LHP, Padres

But Lucchesi has been excellent this spring, holding opponents scoreless over three outings. He ended last season as one of the organization's most polished pitching prospects. And Lucchesi is certainly earning his keep against big league hitters this spring. If he can maintain his current form, he'd likely be one of San Diego's first callups in case of injury. It's not a stretch to think Lucchesi will debut before the All-Star break.

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

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