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Questions loom about 2018 rotation

San Diego has plenty of starting options, but it's uncertain who will land spots
MLB.com @AJCassavell

With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2018 Padres, breaking the team down position-by-position. Today, we preview San Diego's starting pitchers.

Around the Horn series: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF

With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2018 Padres, breaking the team down position-by-position. Today, we preview San Diego's starting pitchers.

Around the Horn series: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF

SAN DIEGO -- There's a clear plan in place for the future of the Padres' rotation. Already, the starting five has seen an infusion of youth, with the emergence of Dinelson Lamet and Luis Perdomo. A handful of arms in Double- and Triple-A should join them soon. Then, presumably, the group of youngsters at the lower levels of the organization will fill out the rotation mix.

The Padres believe that combination of arms -- and perhaps a future free agent or two -- will vault them into annual contention. Perhaps for good reason. Five of the 42 best pitchers on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list reside in San Diego.

General manager A.J. Preller has spoken often about his desire to build "waves of talent" within his farm system, where one group of prospects complements the next. His long-term plan for the starting rotation is exhibit A.

That leaves plenty of questions to be asked about the current rotation mix, however. The Padres opted not to bring back Jhoulys Chacin, who was eyeing a multiyear deal. They added a trio of free agents -- Tyson Ross, Chris Young and Jordan Lyles -- to one-year or Minor League deals. All three will enter camp on the outside of the roster looking in.

The only long-term addition was Bryan Mitchell, who arrived along with Chase Headley in December. Mitchell, who owns a 4.94 ERA in 48 career appearances, was never given consistent opportunity in New York. Now, he's out of options, meaning the Padres are probably committed to throwing him into the rotation and seeing how he fares.

Video: Padres acquire Headley and Mitchell from Yankees

"[He's] a guy, 26 years old, four years of control -- we compared that to the free-agent market, and he was probably more intriguing in terms of the upside and how he fit," Preller said earlier this offseason.

Mitchell joins Clayton Richard as the two prohibitive rotation favorites. After that, Lamet and Perdomo have the upper hand, given their youth. Both have obvious room for growth. But they'll get a chance to stake their claim to a long-term rotation place this year.

Video: Cassavell reflects on Lamet's exciting rookie season

As for the offseason additions -- Colin Rea, Robbie Erlin and Matt Strahm don't exactly qualify. But none of the three pitched for the Padres in 2017 due to injury. All are expected back for Spring Training, throwing some variables into the picture.

"It's a fun group of starters," said Padres manager Andy Green. "No one's sitting here and saying we have Clayton Kershaw sitting at the top of the rotation, but every single name ... has a legit possibility of pitching at the upper half of our rotation if we can get the most out of them."

Sure, the Padres gambled a bit by passing on any major pitching additions. In doing so, it's clear they have one eye on the future.

As for the present? They're looking to piece together a five-man group out of 10 candidates -- each of whom has plenty to prove.

Rotation favorites: Richard, Mitchell

Fighting for a spot: Perdomo, Lamet, Rea, Erlin

Work to do: Strahm, Lyles, Ross, Young

Top-30 prospects: No. 1 MacKenzie Gore, No. 2 Cal Quantrill, No. 5 Adrian Morejon, No. 6 Anderson Espinoza, No. 7 Michel Baez, No. 8 Eric Lauer, No. 9 Joey Lucchesi, No. 13 Logan Allen, No. 14 Jacob Nix, No. 19 Mason Thompson, No. 27 Chris Paddack, No. 28 Reggie Lawson

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

San Diego Padres