A WAY Too Early Look at the Padres Starting 9

Several positions are set; most of the questions are on the pitching staff

As of Friday, we have just 11 days before Padres pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Peoria, AZ.

Last year at this time there were a lot of question marks about the starting lineup. Would Wil Myers be able to learn 1st base and keep his surgically-repaired wrist healthy? Would Austin Hedges take the starting catcher’s job from Derek Norris? What would the starting outfield look like? After the big three of Ross, Shields and Cashner, who would be in the starting rotation?

This year we have a lot fewer questions about the position players but a whole lot more about the pitching staff. So, since I’m all talked out of football right now let’s take a look at what we might be seeing come Opening Day in Padreland.

Here are the positions we know for sure, without question, beyond the shadow of a doubt:

1B – Wil Myers
C – Austin Hedges
3B – Yangervis Solarte
RF – Hunter Renfroe

These guys are etched in stone. Myers is an All-Star, Hedges is arguably the best defensive catching prospect in the game (Norris was traded to Washington to clear space for him), Solarte is the heart of the club and Renfroe showed the kind of power bat and arm at the end of last season that will cement him in right field for a while.

Here are the guys who we have a pretty good idea about:

CF – Manuel Margot/Travis Jankowski
LF – Alex Dickerson/Travis Jankowski

Jankowski figures to be the 4th outfielder with his versatility to play multiple positions. Margot is another defensive wizard with a lot of extra-base hits in his bat and Dickerson showed in spurts last year that the Poway native has legitimate 25-HR power at Petco Park.

Then you have the middle of the infield where a couple of intriguing position battles are going to go down. Here are the players involved there:

2B – Ryan Schimpf, Carlos Asuaje, Cory Spangenberg
SS – Your guess is as good as mine

Schimpf was one of the most pleasant surprises in all of baseball last year. The 28-year-old rookie came up and hit 20 home runs in 89 games, earning a serious look in 2017. Asuaje is the prospect, the Pacific Coast League All-Star. Spangenberg won the starting job in Spring Training of 2016 but was lost soon after to a leg injury. If he is healthy he adds competition to the mix.

As for shortstop? Yeah. That’s a different story. Luis Sardinas and Jose Rondon both played there in 2016 and were good enough defensively but neither guy is going to wow you with his bat. Odds are the Opening Day shortstop is not on the roster yet (meaning general manager A.J. Preller could very well swing a trade).

The guys who don’t make it from this list, along with jack-of-all-trades catcher Christian Bethancourt and another backup catcher for when Bethancourt is playing OF, coming out of the bullpen or serving as 1st base coach, will likely be on the bench.

That brings us to the pitching staff, which might as well be decided by a spirited game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey.

About a dozen guys will have a shot at the 5-man rotation and there is no clear-cut favorite for closer so the staff warrants a whole story in itself. And that is how we’re going to handle it. So check back soon for predictions on who will be on the mound for the Friars in 2017.

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