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Kinsler's the starter ... but will he be challenged?

21-year-old Urias is top second-base prospect per MLB Pipeline
MLB.com @AJCassavell

With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2019 Padres, breaking the team down position-by-position. Today, we preview the San Diego second basemen.

SAN DIEGO -- Luis Urias, long believed to be the Padres' second baseman of the future, may have finally secured his long-term place in San Diego.

With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2019 Padres, breaking the team down position-by-position. Today, we preview the San Diego second basemen.

SAN DIEGO -- Luis Urias, long believed to be the Padres' second baseman of the future, may have finally secured his long-term place in San Diego.

His time as the Padres' second baseman, however, might still be a few months away.

That's a credit to the versatility of the 21-year-old Urias, who currently ranks as MLB Pipeline's top second-base prospect. The Padres need a stopgap at short as they await the arrival of MLB Pipeline's top shortstop prospect, Fernando Tatis Jr. 

So instead of adding a shortstop, the Padres landed veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler. Urias, who has split time between the two middle-infield spots in the Minors, should slot in at shortstop until Tatis' much-anticipated arrival -- likely before the start of June.

That leaves this as the Padres' most sensible set-up at second base to start the 2019 season:

Projected starter: Kinsler

Potential backups: Urias, Greg Garcia, Jose Pirela, Esteban Quiroz

Top 30 prospects: No. 4 Urias, No. 17 Esteury Ruiz, No. 30 Owen Miller

Given the presence of Urias, the Kinsler signing was something of a surprise -- though his two-year, $8 million contract is relatively affordable. The 36-year-old Kinsler clearly isn't a long-term option. And when Tatis arrives, Kinsler will likely be relegated to a utility role where he'll play third base as well.

Video: Ian Kinsler signs a 2-year deal with the Padres

But the Padres saw value in adding a proven big league veteran, especially with 20- and 21-year-olds expected to man the middle of their infield by midseason.

"In 14 years of playing Major League infield, there's a lot that goes into it that he's going to be able to share with that young group of infielders coming up," general manager A.J. Preller said of Kinsler.

Kinsler, the reigning American League Gold Glove Award winner, is clearly excellent defensively, but he's only going to play as much as his bat allows. He endured a notable drop-off last season with a .681 OPS that was more than 100 points lower than his career mark.

"I want to prove I've got a lot of baseball left," Kinsler said. "And I'm confident I'll be able to do that this year."

Barring a major offensive turnaround, Kinsler probably isn't going to play every day. Garcia, a waiver claim from St. Louis, has posted some solid splits against right-handers. It's possible the lefty-hitting utility man platoons with Kinsler during the early stages of the season. That might mean Garcia at short with Urias shifting back to second.

There is, however, some minor concern about Urias, who pulled his left hamstring during the final month of the season and was shut down. He had a setback earlier this offseason in his recovery, but the Padres insist he's on track for Spring Training.

"He's responded pretty well," Preller said at the Winter Meetings last month. "... He's in a good spot right now."

Urias batted .208 in 12 games for the Padres -- too small a sample to draw any conclusions. He's been an on-base machine in the Minor Leagues, having reached at a .397 clip over five seasons. That's the precise cure for what has ailed the Padres, whose offense finished last in the Majors in OBP in each of the past five seasons.

The Friars also have a pair of depth options in Quiroz and Pirela (though Pirela's spot on the 40-man roster is tenuous, when the Padres make further roster moves). Pirela, arguably the Padres' best hitter in 2017, posted a woeful .645 OPS last year and wasn't much better defensively.

It seems likelier that Quiroz plays a role on the 2019 club, even though he's not currently on the 40-man roster. The lefty-hitting infielder, acquired from Boston for Colten Brewer, can play second, short and third, and he's been a legit on-base threat throughout his pro career. The Padres need more of that -- even from their bench pieces.

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

San Diego Padres, Ian Kinsler, Luis Urias