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Padres' prospects to be talk of spring camp

With open roster spots aplenty, young talent seeks to snag slots
February 9, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- It remains entirely possible that the Padres sign a superstar free agent in the coming weeks. There are still two available, after all, and San Diego has shown legitimate interest in both.But until Bryce Harper or Manny Machado dons a Padres jersey, the story of the spring

SAN DIEGO -- It remains entirely possible that the Padres sign a superstar free agent in the coming weeks. There are still two available, after all, and San Diego has shown legitimate interest in both.
But until Bryce Harper or Manny Machado dons a Padres jersey, the story of the spring is all about prospects. The Friars boast the best farm system in baseball, and they aren't shy about giving those youngsters opportunity.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Thirteen of the team's top 30 prospects will be in camp, five of whom are ranked in MLB Pipeline's top 100. A handful of those prospects will be told: Prove it this spring, and you're on the roster.
"All of those guys have more development time ahead of them," Padres manager Andy Green said of the prospect group. "But some of them are going to hasten that process and be with us very quickly, if not right away."
Indeed, the Padres have been very open to promoting their top spring performers. Last year, Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer were both big leaguers by mid-April. With that in mind, here's a primer for all 13 of the Padres' top prospects in camp, in order of their likelihood of securing an Opening Day roster spot.
Luis Urías
Position: 2B/SS
Prospect ranking: Padres' No. 3, overall No. 23
Roster chances: 95 percent
Among prospects, Urias is the closest thing to a roster lock. He might even be the starting shortstop against the Giants on March 28. Urias is an on-base threat in a lineup that sorely needs one, and he's the presumed shortstop stopgap until Fernando Tatis Jr. arrives, when Urias will shift to second. Simply put, the Padres' infield is too thin, and Urias' on-base skills are too important to envision him starting the year in Triple-A.
Keep an eye on: How Urias handles shortstop defensively.
Francisco Mejía
Position: C
Ranking: Padres' No. 4, overall No. 26
Roster chances: 80 percent
Mejia, on the other hand, isn't quite guaranteed a spot like Urias. He's an elite catching prospect, but he's raw, both at the plate and behind it. Plus, Austin Hedges is probably blocking Mejia's path to a starting role. If Mejia struggles in camp, it's not hard to envision him opening the season at Triple-A, where he'd get everyday reps. Still, the likeliest scenario sees Hedges and Mejia competing for a job and splitting time at the big league level.
Keep an eye on: Whether Mejia can cut down his chase rate.

Jacob Nix
Position: RHP
Ranking: Padres' No. 14
Roster chances: 50 percent
It's a wide-open rotation, and for the second straight season, the Padres will give their young arms a chance. Unlike the other prospects on this list, Nix has some big league experience. Even though he slumped to a 7.02 ERA over nine starts, a couple of those outings were actually very promising. As things stand, Nix is probably a rotation tossup. Behind Lauer and Lucchesi, there are three spots available, with six or seven different arms set to compete.
Keep an eye on: Whether Nix can find a putaway pitch.
Logan Allen
Position: LHP
Ranking: Padres' No. 8, overall No. 74
Roster chances: 40 percent
Allen is the early candidate to become this year's version of Lucchesi. At 21, he's three years younger than Lucchesi was last spring. But he, too, has posted excellent numbers at every level, including a 2.25 ERA in six starts at Triple-A (postseason included). The longer the Padres go without signing a free-agent starting pitcher, the likelier it gets that Allen might be on the roster for Opening Day.
Keep an eye on: How Allen's fastball plays against big league hitters.

Austin Allen
Position: C
Ranking: Padres' No. 25
Roster chances: 25 percent
Mejia and Hedges are expected to compete for the starting role behind the dish, but it's worth wondering whether Allen could sneak into that mix. Given his impressive bat, maybe it's even possible that the Friars carry three catchers, which would allow for both Mejia and Allen to serve as pinch-hitters late in games. But Allen probably needs a big-time performance in Spring Training to force the Padres' hand.
Keep an eye on: Any defensive strides Allen has made since last year's camp.
Cal Quantrill
Position: RHP
Ranking: Padres' No. 11
Roster chances: 15 percent
The first few months of Quantrill's 2018 season were a disappointment, but he was much better toward the end of the season, posting a 3.00 ERA over his final eight starts (in some hitter-friendly environments). Quantrill will be looking to build on that success, and he's going to get a few Cactus League starts to prove himself. He's almost certainly going to debut at some point this season, but chances are Quantrill opens the season in Triple-A.
Keep an eye on: Whether those late-season strides carry over.

Chris Paddack
Position: RHP
Ranking: Padres' No. 5, overall No. 34
Roster chances: 10 percent
Paddack had Tommy John surgery in 2016, missed the entire '17 season and threw just 90 innings in '18. The Padres are going to be very cautious with his workload this season. But that doesn't entirely rule him out for a place on the roster. Paddack notched a 2.10 ERA last year and struck out 120 hitters with just eight walks. Those numbers are absurd. He'll be handled with care this season, which might see him jumping between the Minors and Majors as his innings are monitored. But if his stuff plays well against big league hitters, there are innings available for him on the Padres' staff.
Keep an eye on: Paddack's elite changeup against big league hitters.

Fernando Tatis Jr.
Position: SS
Ranking: Padres' No. 1, overall No. 2
Roster chances: 5 percent
Tatis is probably too far down this list for most fans' liking, but the reality is this: He's only 20, he missed nearly half of last season with a broken bone in his thumb, he's yet to log a full year's worth of at-bats at Double-A, and -- perhaps most relevant -- he's hindered by service-time concerns. If the Padres give Tatis a few weeks' worth of Minor League seasoning, they'll ensure he's a Padre in 2025 (presumably in his prime). But make no mistake: Tatis is the shortstop of the future. It's a matter of "when," not "if."
Keep an eye on: Tatis' workload early in camp after he played winter ball through January.

Josh Naylor
Position: 1B/OF
Ranking: Padres' No. 15
Roster chances: less than 5 percent
If there's a universal DH implemented in the next few seasons, Naylor could be a beneficiary. He's one of the organization's best OBP threats. But his defense lags well behind his bat, and he plays two positions -- first base and outfield -- that currently seem settled in San Diego. If Naylor's offensive numbers remain steady, it's fair to expect a big league debut at some point this summer.
Keep an eye on: Where the Padres use Naylor defensively -- and how he fares.
Hudson Potts
Position: 3B
Ranking: Padres' No. 23
Roster chances: less than 5 percent
If the Padres don't sign Machado this offseason, 2019 will be a hugely important year for Potts. Third base is the most glaring long-term need in San Diego, and there's a chance Potts could be the answer. His progress this season could go a long way toward the Padres' decision-making regarding a third baseman next offseason. Potts was solid at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore for most of '18 before struggling during his brief stint in Double-A.
Keep an eye on: Whether Potts, 20, can hold his own against big league arms.
Pedro Avila
Position: RHP
Ranking: Padres' No. 29
Roster chances: less than 5 percent
Avila, acquired from Washington for Derek Norris in 2016, was added to the roster in November to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. He allowed two earned runs and struck out 25 over 20 1/3 innings this offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League. The 22-year-old right-hander has never pitched above Class A Advanced, however, and probably isn't long for big league camp.
Keep an eye on: Avila's ability to put away hitters with both his curveball and his changeup.
Buddy Reed
Position: CF
Ranking: Padres' No. 13
Roster chances: less than 5 percent
With the current outfield logjam, there's not a spot for Reed on the Opening Day roster. That doesn't mean this spring isn't an immensely important one. Reed is a fascinating prospect, given all he can do with his glove and his wheels. He's got some pop, too. But there are questions as to whether Reed's swing will play at the upper levels. He whiffed 63 times in 195 Double-A plate appearances last season. Reed and the Padres are confident in some recent mechanical tweaks he's made, and it could be telling how he fares against some elite competition this spring.
Keep an eye on: Reed, who has a spectacular glove, joining a spring camp with Manuel Margot and Travis Jankowski already on board.
Edward Olivares
Position: OF
Ranking: Padres' No. 28
Roster chances: less than 5 percent
Like Avila, Olivares was an addition to the roster ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Like Avila, Olivares probably isn't long for big league camp, given that they're the only two players on this list that haven't reached Double-A yet. But for both, the experience of time spent in a Major League clubhouse should be a positive one.
Keep an eye on: Olivares' power potential, which has jumped significantly in the past two seasons.

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