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Inbox: Who will be Padres' Opening Day starter?

Beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers questions from San Diego fans
January 31, 2017

For all intents and purposes, the Padres are probably content to enter camp with the roster as currently constructed. General manager A.J. Preller said as much last week, but he left the door open for one or two depth additions.With that in mind, here's a look at your most pressing

For all intents and purposes, the Padres are probably content to enter camp with the roster as currently constructed. General manager A.J. Preller said as much last week, but he left the door open for one or two depth additions.
With that in mind, here's a look at your most pressing Padres questions, with pitchers and catchers set to report in just over two weeks.
Who's the Padres' Opening Day starter?
-- Eric, San Diego

I guess now is an appropriate time to start asking this question. After all, the other team at the Peoria Sports Complex unveiled its Opening Day starter earlier this week. There probably isn't a more wide-open race for an Opening Day start than the one in San Diego. Right now, Clayton Richard, Jhoulys Chacin and Christian Friedrich are all options. But I'd give the early edge to Luis Perdomo.
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In the second half of last season, Perdomo was the Padres' best pitcher. And with the emergence of his sinker, he owns a legitimate big league out pitch. There might be some concern about handing an Opening Day start to a relatively unheralded 23-year-old. But the Padres haven't been hesitant to throw their young players into the fire. After all, they gave Perdomo -- a Rule 5 Draft pick who hadn't yet reached Double-A -- a relief appearance on Opening Day last year.
It's too early to decipher the Padres' plans, and this decision could come down to the wire. But I'll give Perdomo the slight edge to face Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles on April 3.
Will there be talks of a possible six-man rotation?
-- Andrew S., San Diego

As a baseball operations group, the Padres appear to be open to anything entering the 2017 season. (Think of the Christian Bethancourt experiment.) So you can bet they'll discuss the idea of a six-man rotation.
But I don't see it happening -- at least not in the traditional sense. Given the makeup of their roster, the most obvious answer right now is a five-man staff and a seven-man bullpen (eight if you include Bethancourt). Within that bullpen, however, I'd expect Paul Clemens or Trevor Cahill to serve as a sixth starter when the Padres go through long stretches without any off-days.
Perdomo is young and has never pitched more than his 146 2/3 innings from last year. Friedrich's arm began to tire last August. The Padres would like to see their best arms on the mound as often as possible, but they also need to protect them from an increased workload. That's where a potential spot start from Cahill or Clemens might come in handy.
Any chance we see a trade before Opening Day? What about moving a second baseman or relief pitcher?
-- Jamieson F.

I'd say there's a pretty good chance the Padres swing a deal before the opener in Los Angeles. They'd like a shortstop capable of competing with Luis Sardinas for the starting job, and they aren't enamored with the free-agent options. (Among them, Erick Aybar is probably the best available.)
Whom might they trade? Well, second base is clearly a position of strength and depth. In Ryan Schimpf, Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje, the Padres feel they have three big league-caliber second basemen. In the bullpen, however, I get the sense that the Padres value their back-end guys more highly than their opponents do. And that's fine. Ryan Buchter, Brad Hand and Brandon Maurer are all under team control through at least 2019, and the Padres are under no pressure to move any of them.
Is Manuel Margot likely to start the season in Triple-A?
-- Tommy, San Diego

At the beginning of the offseason, this seemed like the most likely possibility. But the Padres' inaction in search of an outfielder has changed my mind entirely.
It's pretty clear Margot -- recently ranked as the No. 23 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline -- is ready for the big leagues. He batted .304/.351/.426 at Triple-A last season, while swiping 30 bags and playing an elite center field. But Margot is only 22, and there's no guarantee he'd receive regular playing time at the big league level. If the Padres gave him about a month of seasoning in El Paso, they'd gain an extra year of team control when he's 28 and in his prime.

That said, the Padres seem set on their current mix of four outfielders -- Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson. There isn't much depth behind those four, and without Margot, Jankowski is the only available center fielder. Unless something happens on the free-agent front, I'd expect Margot to open the year with the big league club. (Hey, he raked against lefties in the Minors. Why not lead him off on Opening Day against Kershaw?)
Who is the best second-base prospect in the pipeline?
-- Mick, San Diego

That would be Luis Urias, slightly edging Asuaje, according to And speaking of Urias ...
Where does Urias start the season?
-- Mario S., San Marcos, Calif.

No Padres prospect has risen quicker than Urias, who was relatively unheralded when he signed out of Mexico in 2013. At Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore last season, Urias took home the California League MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards. He batted .330/.397/.440 with the Storm, and even played three games at Triple-A El Paso after the California League season ended.

This year, it's likely Urias starts the season at Double-A San Antonio. He won't turn 20 until June 3, which would make him one of the youngest players in the Texas League. But after last year's rise, Urias has already proven he's up for the challenge.

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