SAN DIEGO -- It's the holiday season. That means one final Padres Inbox for 2018.
Some important questions linger as the New Year awaits, most of them revolving around the trajectories of some top prospects.
Is Chris Paddack on the same path to the bigs as Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi?
-- Michael H., Albuquerque, N.M.
Yes. And no. Paddack, like Lauer and Lucchesi, is on the fast track to the Majors, and he'll probably arrive sooner than we all expect. There are openings in the rotation, and the 22-year-old right-hander has some of the best stuff in the entire system. He's ranked as the club's No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline.
But once he's there, I wouldn't expect Paddack to be treated the same way as Lauer and Lucchesi were last season. Paddack had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and is still building his innings count. He threw only 90 last season before he was shut down early.
When Paddack arrives, he's probably not going to work deep into September. I'd expect a cycle where he receives a few starts, then he's optioned back to Triple-A, so his workload can be limited. The Padres expect big things from Paddack, but there's no reason to push him too hard in 2019.
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Which Padres outfielder has drawn the most interest from other clubs? Who is in the Majors first from among Paddack, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill, and do any make the team out of spring?
Sneaky. A two-part question. First, let's stay on the topic of the rotation.
I'd be surprised if anyone beats left-hander Logan Allen to the big leagues. He's proven himself at every level of the Minors, and he's built up innings-wise. If anyone's on the April callup path of Lauer and Lucchesi, it's Allen. He's going to have every opportunity to make the rotation in camp, though he's probably currently on the outside looking in.
As for the outfield, I don't think there's a singular answer. Different teams are interested in different guys. Hunter Renfroe's been sought-after. So has William Myers, but it seems like San Diego values him a bit more than some other clubs right now. But for all the talk of the Padres' desire to trade from their corner-outfield depth, it's worth noting that teams have called to discuss Manuel Margot as well.
Margot is 24 and has a high ceiling as a center fielder with elite speed and defense. It's going to take a lot to pry him from San Diego. But his upside could make him a nice piece to include in a trade for a top-tier starter like, say, Noah Syndergaard.
How can you tell if Andy Green is good at what he does? I mean, really, how can we know?
-- John S., San Diego
I've wrestled with this question for the entirety of Green's tenure as skipper. I think he does a lot of good things, but I honestly can't give an overall assessment until we've seen him with a roster that's capable of making a push toward the playoffs. In three years, he hasn't had that yet -- and he probably won't in 2019 either.
For instance, I think Green does a very good job of managing his bullpen. His relievers, it seems, are never put in position to fail. (Their numbers reflect that.) But he's also managed three teams with 90-plus losses. How would his bullpen tactics hold up in a pennant race, where some of his pitchers would be prone to overuse? I can't answer that.
Right now, the benchmark for Green as a manager is progress. It felt like the Padres made progress in 2017 before taking a significant step back last season. In that regard, '19 feels like an incredibly important year -- for the organization as a whole and for Green. If he can direct the Padres toward .500, while helping a handful of prospects acclimate to the big leagues, the club could be poised for a run at contention in 2020. Then, we'd finally get a feel for how Green's game strategy and clubhouse management would play in a pennant-race environment.
Who's the Opening Day shortstop?
-- William L., Katy, Texas
Could Ty France be the Opening Day third baseman?
-- Josh, Escondido
Two questions in one: Who's starting on the left side of the infield? A few Inboxes ago, I gave Opening Day shortstop odds, but those have changed. With the addition of Ian Kinsler, there's a better than 50 percent chance that Luis Urias slides to short to start the season, with Kinsler at second.
That's not written in stone. The Padres are still looking for another infielder. If they add a shortstop, Urias could stay at second with Kinsler sliding to third base. Kinsler is going to get reps at third in Spring Training, no matter what.
As for France, he seems like the fallback option at third if the club can't find another infielder. (And if Myers is moved back to the outfield full time or traded). In that case, it might be safe to expect a platoon between the righty-hitting France and one of the club's lefty-hitting infield options. Greg Garcia, for example, has been dreadful against lefties but owns some solid career splits against right-handers. Envision this for an April infield plan, while the club awaits the arrival of top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr.:
Vs. RHP: Urias 2B; Garcia SS, Kinsler (or LHH Jason Vosler or LHH Jesus Quiroz) 3B
Vs. LHP: Kinsler 2B, Urias SS, France 3B
This, of course, is only a short-term solution to bridge the gap to Tatis, and it might be the best way to ease the burden on Urias, giving him time at both second and short.
Anyway, back to the original question: France as the Opening Day third baseman? Well, France posted an .861 OPS against lefties last season, and the Padres are expected to face Madison Bumgarner on March 28 at Petco Park. So don't rule it out.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.