Inbox: Friars' 26th roster spot; catcher battle

Beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers questions from Padres fans

March 10th, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres have two weeks left in Spring Training to finalize a roster with question marks at catcher, second base, in the outfield and on the pitching staff.

Fittingly, your questions hit on all of those topics in this week’s Inbox. Let's jump right in:

Is it possible the Padres break camp with only four outfielders on the roster and they use the extra spot to squeeze someone on, like Luis Torrens?
-- @PadresPhx via Twitter

Two-part answer here: Yes, it's possible the Padres carry four outfielders. At this point, I'd put the likelihood above 50 percent. They like what they've seen out of in center field, meaning they've mostly solidified their starting group: in left, Grisham in center and in right.

If Grisham can anchor center field, there isn't much need to keep Juan Lagares. Greg Garcia, Jurickson Profar and Francisco Mejía can all slide into the outfield in a pinch, leaving open the possibility of carrying only one backup outfielder. Franchy Cordero, Josh Naylor and perhaps Abraham Almonte would compete for that spot. Why keep both Naylor and Cordero, both of whom are young left-handed hitters who would benefit from regular at-bats in the Minors?

As for the second part of that question, it's hard to envision grabbing the final roster spot. The Padres haven't ruled out keeping three catchers, but the consensus among the team's decision-makers is that it's highly unlikely. If it's not an outfielder, that final place is expected to go to a utility piece -- like Ty France or Jake Cronenworth. Torrens could still make the team. But it would probably come at the expense of Mejía, who has struggled.

The catching conundrum looks to have no definitive answers in spring. Will they have to wait as the season plays out to solve that problem?
-- @bcline760 via Twitter

It's been a rough spring for San Diego catchers. Mejía, Torrens and have combined to hit .133 without an extra-base hit. The Padres aren't panicking based on a small Cactus League sample. But they knew catcher was an area of concern before the season, and nothing has changed their opinion.

There's still upside in a Mejía/Hedges combo with Torrens waiting to break through at Triple-A. If Mejía makes some defensive strides and Hedges reverts to his 2018 offensive form, that's a strong duo.

General manager A.J. Preller was among the most aggressive players in the pursuit of J.T. Realmuto last winter, and you can bet he's still monitoring the catching market. But Torrens and prospect Luis Campusano are regarded very highly in the organization. Preller might be content letting Hedges and Mejía open the season in a timeshare with the hope that Torrens and Campusano apply some pressure from the Minor Leagues.

Will the Padres keep José Castillo and/or Andres Muñoz in Triple-A to start the season as a way to keep Javy Guerra and limit their innings this season?
-- Sergio Q.

And similarly...

Does Javy Guerra's lack of options make him a lock for the Opening Day roster?
-- Ryan P.

Javy Guerra's lights-out Spring Training has done the Padres a huge favor. Early in camp, there was a belief that San Diego would find a way to sneak Guerra into the bullpen, given that he was out of options. But Guerra has pitched 5 1/3 scoreless frames, and he might be proving he's one of the eight best relievers in the organization anyway.

"If he gets on, it's going to be because he earned it," manager Jayce Tingler said after Guerra's most recent outing.

Of course, it's been only 13 months since Guerra began his transition from shortstop to the mound. He's made that transition seamlessly, and there's no telling what his upside might be. If the Padres have to keep Andres Muñoz or Castillo in Triple-A to find out, they're probably going to do so.

Is there any scenario in which anyone other than Joey Lucchesi gets the last rotation spot?
-- @Notabur53694587 via Twitter

Yes, Lucchesi is the favorite, but he definitely hasn't locked up a rotation spot (like Chris Paddack, Garrett Richards, Dinelson Lamet and Zach Davies seemingly have).

Lucchesi was poor on Saturday afternoon against the D-backs. He struggled to find the strike zone, walking four in the first inning. It's fair to view that start as spring kinks to be worked out. But Lucchesi's erratic control has plagued him in the past, and the Padres want to see him take a step forward.

The 26-year-old left-hander can easily secure the job with a decent showing over the next two weeks. But if he struggles, Cal Quantrill will get a very real opportunity to supplant Lucchesi. Quantrill missed a week with the flu earlier in camp, but he's looked sharp in two starts.

If Brian Dozier wins the starting job at second base, what happens to Jurickson Profar?
-- Greg H.

No one is winning the second-base job outright this spring. It’s more likely that the Padres carry three second base options -- possibly up to four -- and they settle the playing-time battle based on in-season performance.

But let's say Dozier seizes that playing time -- or even if he shares it with Greg Garcia. That leaves Profar on the outside looking in. The Padres gave up two mid-tier prospects to land him, so they wouldn't simply cut ties with him.

Remember, Profar filled a utility role in Texas. The Padres want to see him earn the everyday job at second. But if he doesn't, he still has opportunity as a backup at nearly every position and a switch-hitter off the bench.