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Second- and third-base races to heat up

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Any spring camp that's worth its salt should feature competition. That's the nature of Spring Training, after all. And this year's Padres camp certainly has its share.

The most intriguing positional battle in Peoria, Ariz., this spring will take place at second base -- though that will almost certainly spill over to the third-base race as well. The fight for playing time between Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje could impact the entire makeup of the Padres' infield.

SAN DIEGO -- Any spring camp that's worth its salt should feature competition. That's the nature of Spring Training, after all. And this year's Padres camp certainly has its share.

The most intriguing positional battle in Peoria, Ariz., this spring will take place at second base -- though that will almost certainly spill over to the third-base race as well. The fight for playing time between Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje could impact the entire makeup of the Padres' infield.

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On the surface, Spangenberg, Asuaje, Chase Headley and Christian Villanueva all have claims to a place on the Opening Day roster entering camp. They might all be favorites, too, if not for one small problem: None of the four can play shortstop.

And that's where things get tricky. It's very unlikely the Padres opt to carry seven infielders. Three of those jobs will go to Wil Myers, Freddy Galvis and whoever backs up Galvis up at short. (Dusty Coleman is the early favorite.)

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So, following the January deal that sent Yangervis Solarte to Toronto for a pair of prospects, there are four players fighting for three spots.

"It's going to be interesting to see how it all unfolds," Padres skipper Andy Green said at the Winter Meetings. "I think we're trying to create a culture of belief in our players but also a culture of competition, guys pushing each other to be great. ... It's a muddy picture trying to figure out how our roster fits together. But where we're at is: Bring in as much talent as you possibly can, and we'll sort it out."

Here's a look at the four infield options.

Headley
The Padres landed Headley in a December trade with the Yankees that also netted right-hander Bryan Mitchell. His .352 on-base percentage last season would've led the team, and the Padres are desperate for hitters who can reach base, having finished last in the Majors in OBP the past two seasons. Expect Headley to serve as a veteran presence in the clubhouse and a backup at first base for Myers. In the final year of his contract, he could also become the subject of trade speculation as the Deadline approaches.

He'll make the roster if ... he isn't traded before Opening Day, which is still a possibility.

Video: NYY@TB: Headley snares a line drive from Miller

Asuaje
Asuaje turned heads with an impressive rookie season in 2017, posting a .270 average and a .334 on-base percentage, while generally being one of the tougher outs in the lineup. Perhaps as important: Asuaje made huge strides defensively at second base after struggling a bit during his '16 callup. The Padres wouldn't mind seeing Asuaje add a bit more power to his game, but he's already a useful left-handed bat even if he's not much of a home run threat.

He'll make the roster if ... he puts forth similar offensive production, while continuing to be a pest at the plate, working counts and frustrating opposing pitchers.

Video: SD@SF: Asuaje makes impressive glove flip for the out

Spangenberg
What a roller coaster 2017 was for Spangenberg. The Padres left him off the Opening Day roster, and he struggled in May after his callup. Then, he put together a torrid 2 1/2-month stretch worthy of a place in the middle of the lineup, before tailing off big time in September. Spangenberg needs to find a measure of consistency in '18, but he's in good shape for a roster spot, given that he's the only member of the infield who can move back and forth between second and third (while playing some left field as well).

He'll make the roster if ... he continues to showcase his positional versatility and his overall athleticism. (If he hits like he did last July with a .309 average, he'll earn the starting nod, easily).

Video: WSH@SD: Spangenburg displays smooth hands at third

Villanueva
No doubt, Villanueva is the biggest question mark of the bunch. He also might have the biggest immediate upside. During his September callup last season, Villanueva batted .344 with four homers in 32 at-bats. After eight seasons in the Minors, he wasted no time taking advantage of his first big league opportunity. Now, it's up to Villanueva to prove he can sustain his success at the plate. He's got the longest odds of the group to be in San Diego for Opening Day.

He'll make the roster if ... he rakes during camp. The Padres could use a right-handed bench bat, and there's probably some playing time available if he hits.

Video: ARI@SD: Villanueva turns a double play in the 2nd

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Carlos Asuaje, Chase Headley, Cory Spangenberg, Christian Villanueva