SAN DIEGO -- Padres pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next week, and there's clearly plenty to watch for at the team's complex in Peoria, Ariz.There's a wide-open rotation race yet to unfold. There's a logjam in the infield, sure to feature a fierce battle for playing time. And
SAN DIEGO -- Padres pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next week, and there's clearly plenty to watch for at the team's complex in Peoria, Ariz.
There's a wide-open rotation race yet to unfold. There's a logjam in the infield, sure to feature a fierce battle for playing time. And there's a new shortstop in Freddy Galvis who is looking to acclimate himself.
But for all the storylines at Padres camp this spring, the most exciting might not pertain to the Opening Day roster at all. (The Opening Day roster in 2018, that is.)
When the club released its list of non-roster invitees last month, it was the youngest players whose names jumped out, particularly shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and second baseman Luis Urias. They're baseball's No. 8- and No. 36-rated prospects, respectively, according to MLB Pipeline. And they comprise the most exciting double-play duo in all of Minor League baseball, each ranked as the No. 2 prospect at his position.
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Neither has a realistic chance at a big league job this spring. In fact, Tatis, who turned 19 in January, will probably be back in Minor League camp by early March.
That said, Tatis and Urias will be sporting Padres jerseys and manning the middle of the infield together for the first time. Even if they're only playing late innings of Cactus League games, that's still a notion that thrills Padres fans.
"Seeing those guys get back on the field together, that'll be a lot of fun," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said last month. "Hopefully we're giving everybody a glimpse of what could potentially be a nice combo in the future."
Urias, 20, is slightly ahead of Tatis in his progression. This year marks Urias' second invite to Major League Spring Training. It's possible he sticks around for the duration of camp, and should the Padres find a trade partner for Chase Headley, as has been rumored, Urias could even be a long-shot infield candidate.
In 118 games for Double-A San Antonio last season, Urias batted .296/.398/.380. He split time between second base and shortstop -- versatility which could prove useful. But Urias clearly projects as a second baseman in the long term. And Tatis' presence only solidifies that notion.
If he continues to hit -- and perhaps adds a bit of power to his game -- Urias could earn himself a midseason callup. Tatis, meanwhile, probably won't make an impact until 2019. But many believe he's destined for stardom.
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For about a decade, the Padres have searched for their shortstop of the future. In Tatis, they may have found him. The former White Sox prospect -- Tatis was dealt to San Diego in the James Shields deal in 2016 -- set a franchise record with 21 homers for Class A Fort Wayne last season. At 18, he made a significant jump to San Antonio, where he held his own.
Said Padres farm director Sam Geaney: "I have no doubt he's someone who's up to the task of a big league camp."
If only for a few weeks this spring, the Padres' potential double-play tandem of the future will become their double-play tandem of the present.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.