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Padres gearing for these 4 roster battles in ST

@AJCassavell
February 9, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- In three weeks, the Padres' full squad will report to camp in Peoria, Ariz., marking Jayce Tingler's first look at his full roster. The new skipper will have no shortage of tricky decisions to make. As currently constructed, San Diego's roster features a number of intriguing positional

SAN DIEGO -- In three weeks, the Padres' full squad will report to camp in Peoria, Ariz., marking Jayce Tingler's first look at his full roster. The new skipper will have no shortage of tricky decisions to make.

As currently constructed, San Diego's roster features a number of intriguing positional battles to be decided during Spring Training. Here's a look at where things stand in the four most prominent races for roster spots.

1) Outfield

Spots available: 3
Contenders: Trent Grisham, Josh Naylor, Franchy Cordero, Taylor Trammell

As things stand, only Tommy Pham and Wil Myers are locks for the Opening Day roster. Grisham probably needs to earn his place with his performance during spring. But he's a heavy favorite, given his ability to play center field. Plus, the Padres clearly like his skill set after paying a steep price to acquire him from Milwaukee.

That could leave Naylor and Cordero -- two lefty bats with high-upside -- to compete for the final roster spot in the outfield. Trammell, the team's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, would need a monster spring to force his way onto the roster. If it's indeed Naylor vs. Cordero, the winner could find himself playing somewhat regularly against right-handed pitching.

2) Bullpen

Spots available: 1-2
Contenders: Pierce Johnson, Javy Guerra, Luis Perdomo, David Bednar, Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, Gerardo Reyes, Trey Wingenter, Kyle Barraclough, Jimmy Yacabonis, Chih-Wei Hu, Steven Wilson

On paper, there's a case to be made that the Padres have the best bullpen in the National League. One of the biggest strengths of that bullpen is its depth.

That's very evident here. San Diego presumably has one open spot available (though it might have two if two-way players Guerra and Jake Cronenworth are in the mix). The club seemingly has a dozen viable options for those two spots. Johnson is an overwhelming favorite, of course, given that the Padres committed $5 million to him over the next two seasons. But it's anybody's guess for the final place in that loaded bullpen.

It's unlikely that a non-roster option like Barraclough, Yacabonis or Wilson makes the team, given the other options already on the 40-man roster. But don't rule them out. Adam Cimber and Craig Stammen are recent examples of non-roster relievers who forced their way onto the team with their performance.

Ultimately, the likeliest scenario might see Perdomo, Wingenter, Baez and Bednar fighting for that final place. But José Castillo missed nearly all of last season with elbow and finger injuries, and if he's not fully healthy, there might be two spots available for that group.

3) Sixth infielder

Spots available: 1
Contenders: Ty France, Esteban Quiroz, Jake Cronenworth, Owen Miller, Seth Mejias-Brean

Three-fourths of the Padres' infield is locked in for the long run: First baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Manny Machado and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. should anchor San Diego's offense for most of the next decade. But second base remains a serious question mark.

As things stand, we can pencil Jurickson Profar and Greg Garcia onto the Opening Day roster, and that duo might share starts at second. That probably leaves a handful of infielders to fight for one final place on the team.

France is an early favorite after he showed flashes of power potential during his rookie season. The 25-year-old spent most of his career as a corner infielder, but he transitioned to a part-time second base role last year and proved to be serviceable. Plus, France could become a solid option to play first base against left-handers if Hosmer's woes vs. southpaws continue.

But if France struggles during Spring Training, the Padres might look for a more traditional middle-infield type to serve as their utility man. Quiroz, Miller and Cronenworth all fit that mold.

4) Rotation

Spots available: 1
Contenders: Joey Lucchesi, Cal Quantrill, MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patiño, Jerad Eickhoff, Morejon, Baez

At the front of the rotation, Chris Paddack and Garrett Richards are locks. Meanwhile, Dinelson Lamet and newly acquired righty Zach Davies aren't quite guarantees, but they're pretty darn close. That probably leaves only one place available for a handful of intriguing options.

The early leader is obviously Lucchesi, who has been a staple of the Padres' rotation for two seasons. He's posted a 4.14 ERA in 56 starts for San Diego, and he seemingly fits nicely as a back-of-the-rotation piece. But Lucchesi will be pushed by Quantrill and Eickhoff -- not to mention a deep group of youngsters, including Gore and Patiño, the team's top two pitching prospects.

It's possible Gore or Patiño forces his way onto the Opening Day roster with a dominant spring -- like Paddack did last season. But it isn't likely. A season ago, the Padres' rotation was significantly thinner than it is now, with Richards and Lamet having returned from Tommy John surgery.

Padres' Top 30 Prospects list

It would take something special for one of those rookies to force his way into the rotation. But Baez and Morejon might have a different path to a roster spot. Both project to be stretched into starting roles at the beginning of camp, but the organization could opt to use them in relief instead.

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