Inbox: Who has best shot at top rotation slot?

Padres beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers fans' questions

July 3rd, 2017

After seeing , and , which of the three has the best chance of becoming a top-of-the-rotation arm?
-- Eduardo L., San Diego

The Padres' aging rotation got young quickly this season, due to a handful of injuries. As a result, Perdomo, Lamet and Diaz were all given the chance to showcase the bright futures ahead of them.
Right now, Diaz is simply too raw to make any bold projections. Perdomo is furthest along in his development. His sinker/slider mix makes him a bona fide middle-of-the-rotation candidate for years to come.
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Lamet, on the other hand, has bigger holes. His command can be shoddy, and he needs to learn to pitch more efficiently. But his stuff is ace-caliber. Lamet debuted in May with three above-average Major League pitches, two of which could become elite. Of the three young right-handers, Lamet has the best chance to sit atop the rotation one day.
What are the chances the Padres deal Brad Hand and by Aug.1, making way for to become the closer?
-- Matt

Lots of assumptions here. The first is a fair one. Hand is the Padres' most coveted trade chip ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and it's hard to see his value being any higher than it is now. It seems more likely than not that Hand is dealt before July 31.
Maurer, meanwhile, has been inconsistent at best, with an ERA north of 6. It's doubtful the Padres would receive much for Maurer, making it prudent to hang onto the hard throwing right-hander (who they feel has closer-caliber stuff).
Then there's Maton, who has been undeniably impressive since his callup last month. He's destined to become a closer candidate in the future. But even if Maurer is dealt (and he won't be), Maton wouldn't usurp or , who both are in the midst of impressive seasons.
Who will be the first 2016 Padres Draft pick to debut, and when?
-- Mark B., Poway, Calif.

Out of everyone from the 2017 Draft class, who do you think will make the MLB roster first?
-- Jason F.

I'm sensing a trend: Padres fans looking to the future. And understandably so, given the talent haul of their past two Draft classes. (These questions are also particularly relevant with Maton as the first 2015 draftee to make it to San Diego.)
Let's start with the 2016 group. Cal Quantrill is the top prospect, at No. 2 in the system and No. 83 overall. But in his progression, he's slightly behind left-handers Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi -- both of whom were promoted to Double-A San Antonio last week. Between the two, I'll take Lauer, who tossed 7 2/3 scoreless frames while striking out nine in his Double-A debut Sunday. A September callup is probably a stretch for Lauer. But with his advanced four-pitch mix, 2018 seems very likely.
As for the 2017 class, it's anyone's guess. The Padres took six high schoolers in a row to open the Draft, and prep prospects are notoriously unpredictable. That said, top pick MacKenzie Gore has all the tools to be placed on the fast track. Sure, he's only 18, but he's as safe a bet as any to debut by the '19 season.
When will play consistently at shortstop?
-- Jared W., Las Vegas

It's not going to happen this year. The Padres have spoken repeatedly about easing the burden on Cordoba, a Rule 5 Draft selection who had never played a game above Rookie ball until Opening Day. Already, Cordoba has played in more games this season than he's played in any other professional campaign.

Cordoba exceeded expectations early, but the grind of a Major League season has clearly started to wear on him. I'd argue that playing every day at shortstop -- an extremely demanding position -- might actually be detrimental to his development. He should continue to see time there once or twice a week in the second half.