Spring topics? Lamet's health at top of list

Infield playing time, young lefties, bullpen depth also pose questions for Padres

February 11th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres revamped their roster this winter, adding a trio of big-name starting pitchers and two versatile offensive weapons.

Those moves answered a number of important questions. They didn't answer all of them.

With Spring Training on the horizon, we can expect to finally get answers to a few lingering Padres questions. Namely, these four:

1. What's the health status of Dinelson Lamet?

This is the big one -- the question that could make or break the Padres' season.

was a certifiable ace in 2020, posting a 2.09 ERA and finishing fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting. Even on a team that landed and , Lamet might be the most dominant of the bunch.

Some viewed the Padres' decision to add Snell and Darvish as a concession that the team isn’t optimistic regarding Lamet. That’s not exactly true.

The Padres know as much regarding Lamet as they did five months ago. He missed the postseason because of an injury to his right elbow/biceps area. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection in October. The Padres are hopeful he won't require surgery, but they privately acknowledge they won't know for sure until he returns to game action.

By trading for Snell and Darvish, the Padres have covered themselves quite a bit in the event that Lamet's elbow barks again. But if he's healthy -- and from his preseason workouts, there is no indication otherwise -- the Padres might have the most fearsome rotation in the sport. (Yes, that includes the Dodgers'.)

2. Which infielders will take outfield reps?

All the right platitudes were spoken when San Diego signed in January. The Padres said they viewed Kim as an infielder. Kim said he'd play anywhere the Padres needed him to play.

At the time, the specifics were an afterthought. The Padres had acquired one of free agency’s top position players. They could figure the rest out later.

Well, it's finally time to address the practical matter of playing time. Frankly, there isn’t much available in the Padres' infield. First baseman , third baseman and shortstop are all locked into their positions.

That leaves super utilityman bound for part-time outfield duties again. It also might necessitate that either Kim or do the same.

The Padres could certainly platoon the lefty-hitting Cronenworth with the righty-hitting Kim at second base. But they'd be much better served if that wasn't their only option. One of those two -- and perhaps both -- will see action in the outfield, where they could add serious value to their versatile skill sets. Spring Training offers the perfect chance to test those waters.

3. What path do the Padres see for their young lefties?

With a healthy Lamet, the Padres have a full five-man rotation entering the 2021 season. That doesn't leave much room for a trio of highly touted 21-year-old left-handers to break through.

MacKenzie Gore, and were all once viewed as the future of the Padres' rotation. That's still the case -- only they don't represent the entire future. Merely part of it. The Padres already have some pretty darn good arms on board for the next few years.

General manager A.J. Preller has said the team will enter camp with plans to build Gore, Weathers and Morejon toward a starter's workload. It's a sensible plan, and a solid contingency in the event they need a replacement for Lamet (or anyone else).

But eventually, the Padres will have a decision to make: Where do they get the most value from those three arms? Rotation or bullpen?

For Gore, they've already answered the question. He's a starter and will be treated that way. Morejon and Weathers, meanwhile, have proven they can make an impact in the 'pen. If there's no starting job available, they might be given that chance again.

4. Do the Padres have enough in their bullpen?

The Padres are making a significant gamble on their bullpen this winter. They've added impact pieces to their rotation and offense, but have done little to address a relief corps that saw the departures of Trevor Rosenthal and Kirby Yates.

That gamble hinges on the status of two arms -- and . They're expected to be fully healthy after injury concerns cost them time in each of the past two seasons. Both have undeniably electric stuff. If the Padres can slot them into the middle innings, they could slide and to the back end and feel confident about their bullpen mix.

But it might not be that simple. Those injury concerns might persist. Plus, neither Adams nor Castillo has an extensive track record. If they struggle to become their dominant selves, the Padres don't have room to maneuver. Their bullpen is already somewhat congested with pitchers who are out of options.

Adams and Castillo will get their chance this spring. Their performance could go a long way toward letting Padres brass know whether they have enough in their 'pen -- or whether it's time to make a deal.