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Inbox: Who will be SD's primary catcher in '19?

Beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers questions from San Diego fans @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Hedges vs. Mejia.

Since the Padres landed Francisco Mejia -- MLB Pipeline's top-ranked catching prospect -- at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, that's been the burning debate on the mind of nearly every Padres fan.

SAN DIEGO -- Hedges vs. Mejia.

Since the Padres landed Francisco Mejia -- MLB Pipeline's top-ranked catching prospect -- at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, that's been the burning debate on the mind of nearly every Padres fan.

In Mejia and Austin Hedges, San Diego boasts two of the game's best young catchers. And this week's Padres Inbox reflects your interest in the positional battle.

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Mejia is off to a red-hot start, and Hedges has made serious strides at the plate while remaining rock-solid defensively. It's hard to find quality catchers in the Major Leagues, but the Padres might now have two of them.

When will we get clarity on the Mejia/Hedges situation?
-- Ryan C.

Depends what you mean by clarity. In all likelihood, we'll have a good idea how the Padres plan to rotate the two early next season. This month, it's an even split. But I wouldn't read too much into the final three weeks -- especially given that Hedges started at catcher in 34 of 41 games during the second half before Mejia's callup.

Video: SD@CIN: Mejia crushes 3-run jack for his second homer

Next season should be more indicative of the long-term plan. I imagine we'll learn a few things during Spring Training -- namely, whether the Padres plan to use Mejia in the outfield to find a way to get both bats in the lineup. Then, the first month of the 2019 regular season should tell us who gets the bulk of the time behind the plate -- and whether the split's going to be somewhat even.

Of course, that's provided that neither is traded during the offseason.

How long can Mejia and Hedges reasonably coexist on the roster without one of them pushing the other out?
-- @PadresOnABagel

Probably longer than you'd think, even though both are young catchers with high ceilings, and there are only so many at-bats to go around. More than anything, it'll come down to the Padres' plans for Mejia. I get the sense he's going to be used as a corner outfielder, too.

Video: SD@CIN: Hedges cranks a 2-run homer to left in 3rd

Hedges is on record as saying he wants to play 130-140 games per season -- and that's probably what you'd want your catcher saying in this situation. But it probably won't happen next year. The likelier scenario might be 100-110 games for Hedges, with Mejia playing 50-60 behind the plate and another 50-60 in the outfield.

If that split can be managed, it might be best for everyone involved. Catching in the big leagues is a difficult job, and a little extra rest wouldn't hurt either of them.

What are the odds that Fernando Tatis Jr. starts next year on Opening Day?
-- Keith, San Diego

Slim, for a number of reasons -- the most notable being service time. If the Padres wait until mid-April to promote Tatis to the Majors, they'll have control of him through the 2025 season instead of through '24.

But Tatis' case isn't the same as some higher profile service-time debates like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez. San Diego has good reason to hold Tatis back. He's still never played a game above Double-A, and he's coming off an injury (broken left thumb) that forced him to miss the final two months of the season. There's an argument to be made that he'd benefit from a little more time in the Minors.

The Padres don't have a ready-made option to start at short next year. But it's likelier they use rookie Javy Guerra and/or sign a veteran stopgap.

When do Chris Paddack, Logan Allen, Tatis and Josh Naylor arrive?
-- Michael J., Escondido, Calif.

Short answer: 2019.

If I had to guess the order, I'd go with Allen, Tatis, Paddack, Naylor.

Don't be shocked if Allen makes some noise for a rotation spot out of camp. It's doubtful he's one of the Opening Day starting five, but he'll probably be one of the first options up from Triple-A.

Paddack might be eased in a bit more slowly. Naylor, meanwhile, plays first base and left field, and there simply isn't a big league opportunity readily available at those spots.

Video: SD@CIN: Renfroe makes a diving grab with bases loaded

The Padres' outfield defense is horrendous. Will we see change?
-- Michael J., Escondido, Calif.

The Padres' outfield defense ranks fourth in the Majors in defensive runs saved. It boasts two borderline elite defenders in Travis Jankowski and Manuel Margot. Hunter Renfroe has made serious strides as a left fielder (and he has an absolute cannon for an arm). Franmil Reyes has a long way to go, but Franchy Cordero will return next season with all the tools to be very good defensively.

It is assuredly not "horrendous." It's actually been quite good.

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

San Diego Padres, Austin Hedges, Francisco Mejia